Vince McMahon WWE
Vince McMahon announced on "Monday Night Raw" that the winner of the Royal Rumble match would win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Getty

History will be made at the 2016 Royal Rumble, when the WWE World Heavyweight Championship is defended in the Royal Rumble match for the first time ever. Vince McMahon announced the stipulation on “Monday Night Raw” after Roman Reigns successfully defended the title against Sheamus.

The news opens up a host of possibilities for the Royal Rumble, and in turn, WrestleMania 32. There have been rumors regarding whom Reigns might defend his title against at the year’s biggest pay-per-view, but now the chances have increased that the former Shield member might not be in a title match on April 3 in Dallas.

Thirty men will enter the battle royal, but only a few have a legitimate chance to win. Newly signed AJ Styles could be a surprise entrant in the Royal Rumble, but he won’t win the title ahead of WrestleMania 32. Fans have been waiting for Dean Ambrose to turn on Reigns and win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, but he’s likely headed for a WrestleMania match with Chris Jericho, who has announced he’ll be in the Royal Rumble. Daniel Bryan could certainly win if he enters the match, but he might never wrestle for WWE again because of injuries.

Only four WWE wrestlers stand out as realistic candidates to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at the 2016 Royal Rumble.

Roman Reigns

Roman Reigns
Roman Reigns

Reigns is the betting favorite to win the match and keep his WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Before Vince changed the Royal Rumble stipulation, it seemed unlikely that WWE would put the title on Reigns in December only to take it off of him so soon. The company had worked for a year to get him over with the crowd, and they’ve finally achieved their goal. WWE might be hoping to increase Reigns’ popularity by having him overcome even more odds, and a No.1 contender’s match at Fastlane would determine his WrestleMania 32 opponent.

Triple H

Triple H

It’s inevitable that Triple H and Reigns will have a match. The only questions that remain are where will the match take place and whether or not the WWE World Heavyweight Championship will be on the line. The COO hasn’t been on WWE TV since Reigns attacked him at TLC, and there’s a good chance he’ll be looking for his vengeance in the Royal Rumble match. That leaves the WWE with a few options. Triple H could eliminate Reigns and go on to win the title, setting up a rematch at WrestleMania 32. Triple H could also cost Reigns the title without entering the Rumble, setting up a non-title match at Fastlane or WrestleMania 32.

Brock Lesnar

Brock Lesnar Getty

No one in WWE moves the needle like Lesnar, and there’s a good chance he’ll find his way into the main event at the biggest show of 2016. Lesnar is set to return on the Jan. 11 edition of “Raw,” likely announcing that he’s entering his name in the Royal Rumble match. If Lesnar is in the battle royal, it’s hard to imagine anyone throwing him over the top rope. That could set up a rematch with Reigns at WrestleMania 32, though a WWE World Championship Match with The Rock isn’t out of the question.

John Cena

John Cena Getty

Cena is always one of the favorites to win the Royal Rumble. After facing up-and-comers in Bray Wyatt and Rusev at WrestleMania in the last two years, it’s a near certainty that the company’s top star over the last decade will be in one of the biggest matches as WWE tries to sell 100,00 tickets in Dallas. WWE has positioned Reigns to be Cena’s eventual replacement as their No.1 superstar. Reigns could regain the title at WrestleMania 32 from Cena, who would pass the proverbial torch to the current champion.