For over 20 years now, the Royal Rumble has been one of WWE’s “big four” live events and one of the most anticipated shows by fans. This is due to the event being the official “Road to WrestleMania” kickoff and also because of the entire unpredictable nature of the Rumble match itself. It’s definitely one of my favourite pay-per-views, for sure.
So to help you try to wade through the hundred other prediction columns out there, I figure I’d throw my two cents into the mix, too. Let’s go!!
Fatal four-way tag team match to qualify for the Royal Rumble match
Darren Young and Damien Sandow vs. The Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray Dudley and D-Von Dudley) vs. The Ascension (Konnor and Viktor) vs. Mark Henry and Jack Swagger
First off…Darren Young & Damien Sandow?? What the hell? Whatevs…the fact of the matter is that nobody cares about anybody in this match as potential winners of the Royal Rumble. Where Bubba Ray made his Rumble “surprise appearance” last year in Philadelphia, it wouldn’t make sense for the Dudleyz to enter the Rumble individually. Young & Sandow seem to be a few months away from being released and nobody gives two shits about the Ascension in any way, shape, or form.
WINNERS: Where Mark Henry is probably (quietly) retiring this year and Jack Swagger is still a lower mid-card player with some name credibility (it’s miniscule, but it’s there), I see the make-shift team of Henry & Swagger getting the nod and entering the Rumble.
Last Man Standing match for the Intercontinental Championship
Dean Ambrose © vs Kevin Owens
This should be one hell of a fun hardcore battle. Both men are more than capable of putting on a hellacious fight that looks incredible, so I get the feeling that both men are going to be pulling out all the stops in order to steal the show. Next to the Rumble match itself, this is the one I’m looking forward to seeing the most.
WINNER: My thinking is that whoever loses is the one that WWE has bigger plans for at WrestleMania. So because of that, I’ll say Dean Ambrose takes it.
United States Championship
Alberto Del Rio © vs Kalisto
In WWE’s mind, the fact that they had Kalisto win the U.S. title from Del Rio on RAW means that they’ve “made” Kalisto as the next big thing and the “new Rey Mysterio”. The reality of the situation is that Kalisto was completely dominated in both matches and won each on a roll-up fluke…and Del Rio won the title right back on Smackdown in a match that was barely mentioned the following week on RAW. No, this is NOT how you create new stars, WWE. And sorry, but the matches between these two men have been pretty good so far but not great. I don’t see that changing this time around, nor do I see another “surprise upset” taking place.
WINNER: Alberto Del Rio
WWE Divas Championship
Charlotte © w/ Ric Flair vs Becky Lynch
I’ve loved the matches between these two women so far. They’ve been great back-n-forth battles, but you could tell that they were holding back a little bit. My guess is that they’re both going to go all-out and give us the type of battle that they gave us down in NXT before they were called-up to the main roster. I think Flair will get involved somehow, but I also think Paige will show up and continue her storyline with her Team PCB brethren. I suppose Nikki Bella could get involved, as well…just so she can return before WrestleMania rolls around and get her spot, but I’m hoping that isn’t the case. This should continue the streak of excellent women’s wrestling matches on live WWE/NXT events that has been the case over the past few months. This match will not have a convincing finish, will continue through FastLane, and (hopefully) set-up a 3-way match between Team PCB at Mania.
WWE Tag Team Championship
New Day (Kofi Kingston, Big E, & Xavier Woods) vs Jimmy & Jey Uso
I’m of the thought process that it’s still not the right time to take the titles off of New Day (that would be Mania). I’m also of the thought process that the Usos are not the team to take the titles off of them. Who does? I really don’t know. I was hoping it would be the Lucha Dragons but I don’t know if Sin Cara II will be back from injury by then. That doesn’t leave much in terms of established babyface teams for New Day to face at the next two PPV’s, but what’s the alternative if the Usos win? Yeah…exactly.
WINNERS: New Day
Royal Rumble Match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
Okay…this is the list of “officially announced” participants for the match:
- WWE World Heavyweight Champion Roman Reigns: No. 1 entrant
- Brock Lesnar
- Chris Jericho
- Bray Wyatt
- Erick Rowan
- Luke Harper
- Braun Strowman
- Dolph Ziggler
- Big Show
- Curtis Axel
- Tyler Breeze
So yeah…needless to say there are a LOT of questions going into this match. The biggest is…just who the hell else is going to enter? I think that’s part of the awesome fun of the match design, though. It’s so much damn fun to sit back and pop at the next surprise who comes through the curtain.
Having said that, who can we realistically expect to be a “surprise entrant” at this year’s Rumble?
- AJ Styles – After a couple of weeks of “Styles will debut at the Rumble”, we’ve been bombarded with “Styles will NOT debut at the Rumble” over the past week. That tells me that it’s a distinct possibility, in spite of the bullshit TNA decided to pull this week by releasing their statement about the contract negotiations between them and the Bullet Club members (but that’s a whole other column for another day). The fact of the matter is that Styles is a realistic possibility.
- Charles Wright – While he has already made a surprise entrance at the Rumble under his Godfather gimmick, the rumors of him being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame this year would make his appearance one that makes sense…just so people can be reminded of who the guy is. He could appear as Papa Shango, Kama the Supreme Fighting Machine, Kama Mustafa from the Nation of Domination, or everybody’s favourite…the Godfather (accompanied to the ring by a “ho train”, of course). He wouldn’t last long, but don’t be shocked if it happens.
- Daniel Bryan – While WWE has been steadfastly opposed to Bryan returning to in-ring competition due to their fears about his health (and rightfully so), having another doctor give his “seal of approval” this week could be the final catalyst that Bryan needs to convince WWE that he’s good to go. Listen…this isn’t Vince trying to hold Bryan back or hold him down. Daniel Bryan is a man who has had multiple concussions (at least seven that have been documented) and with concussions being front and center in today’s sporting world (similar to how steroids were front and center a few years ago), it’d be extremely risky for WWE to allow Bryan to compete only to have him suffer ANOTHER concussion. It’s not out of the question, though. Injuries have made McMahon desperate.
- X-Pac – Sean Waltman isn’t in the WWE Hall of Fame as of yet primarily because they didn’t want a Cliq member to be inducted every single year. But believe it…it’ll happen. And to the best of my knowledge, Waltman has never done a Rumble one-off yet. He still wrestles, is still in great shape, and has been working hard to be on the straight-and-narrow. I think it would be great to see Waltman make one more in-ring appearance for WWE before his eventual Hall of Fame induction.
- The Undertaker – I know that John Cena’s injuries have put their scheduled WrestleMania match on the shelf, but I still think that Taker would like to retire in Texas at the biggest Mania of all time. In order to kick off the “Undertaker Retirement Tour”, a surprise return to the Rumble would be the perfect way to re-introduce himself.
- Kane – This shouldn’t really be a “surprise” entrant, but where he hasn’t officially been listed as a participant and hasn’t been on television lately, I guess it makes sense to throw him in there.
- Randy Orton – Nobody is talking about Orton returning, and that tells me that he’s probably ready to come back. He’s a non-issue when it comes to winning it all, but it’d be a nice surprise to see him return.
- Finn Bálor – There are a TON of NXT guys who are ready for the main roster, but I just don’t see any of them being called-up just two months before the biggest show of the year. That is, none of them except for the NXT champion. If anybody has earned a spot, it’s Bálor. It’s also the perfect way to introduce him to the WWE Universe and let those unfamiliar with him experience the massive roof-blowing pop that will happen once his music hits.
- The Rock – It’s insane to think that a part-timer like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson can walk off the street and think he can still hang with the WWE roster, but that’s the type of athlete that Johnson is. He has already confirmed his involvement with WrestleMania (though he hasn’t confirmed in what capacity). Where he isn’t currently shooting a movie (as of Friday morning, he was on the set of his HBO show Ballers) and there is precedent for a part-time WWE champion (with both him and Brock Lesnar doing it in previous years), it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility that he could, at the very least, appear in the Rumble match itself.
- Triple H – This is probably the worst-kept WWE secret of the past few weeks. The odds-on favourite to win the whole thing isn’t an official entrant as of this morning. Having said that, Vince LOVES to screw with dirtsheets and fans who think they know what’s going on…so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him not participate in the Rumble itself, but still cost Reigns the title and set-up their feud for FastLane and the blow-off at WrestleMania.
So who the hell is going to win the whole thing?
I’ve got a few possibilities…
- Bray Wyatt – Don’t think that his recent insertion into the main event is by chance. And yes, I fully understand that WWE has booked Wyatt to lose 99% of his feuds since coming to the main event roster, but I’m hoping against all hope that this latest push is legitimate. Wyatt deserves to be in the main event. The guy can totally run with the ball and be the sinister devil champion that the company hasn’t had in a VERY long time.
- Roman Reigns – Being the first overall pick doesn’t mean that he’s not going to win. There have been two other participants who have entered the Rumble at #1 and have gone on to win the whole damn thing (Shawn Michaels and Chris Benoit both accomplished that feat), so don’t be shocked to see him “cement” his status as being “THE NEW MAN” in WWE so John Cena can fade away into the shadows of Hollywood.
- Triple H – Ugh. Here’s the thing…I *LOVE* Triple H. I’ve been a fan of his since his debut in WWE and through all the years when he was on top and people shit all over him, I was his biggest defender. Even now, this is the guy who has lost almost every major match he’s had over the past decade to help put over other talent. He’s the guy who has put NXT on the map because he knows what wrestling fans SHOULD be watching. He’s not the guy who is putting himself in the main event storylines now…he’s the guy who will happily step back into the spotlight because he’s been asked. So while I don’t think it’s “best for business” to have him be the WWE champion heading into WrestleMania, I know that he’s the odds-on favourite right now to win it all.
- Daniel Bryan – If he did, in fact, pass another doctor’s examination and then, as a result, get the green light by WWE’s physician…then you have to believe that Vince realizes that box office potential of having Daniel Bryan live another WrestleMania dream by defending the WWE World Heavyweight Championship (the one he never lost, by the way) against an opponent like, say, Brock Lesnar. No…fans aren’t the only ones who are drooling at the potential of this match. You better believe that Vince, Stephanie, and the entire WWE staff (both inside and outside the ring) know that money that can be made by Bryan vs Lesnar.
- Brock Lesnar – This goes to add to the above possibility. Even if Bryan doesn’t return tonight, don’t be shocked to see Lesnar walk out of the Rumble as the new champion. He’s been a part-time champion previously (and a successful draw, at that) and could easily be inserted into the main event of WrestleMania without hesitation. Without question, Brock Lesnar is the biggest HEALTHY draw on the entire roster right now…so imagine the headlines if they set-up Lesnar as a defending champion against somebody like the Rock or Daniel Bryan or even Kevin Owens
But the eventual winner is going to be booed out of the building for winning. Not only that, but the fact that he’ll be defending the WWE title against Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania will go to ensure he’s the most hated man in the entire stadium and Lesnar’s victory is the loudest cheer you’ve heard in a very long time.
Yes, I am predicting (wildly) that Sheamus is going to win the Rumble.
People are ignoring the fact that he is still in a storyline with Reigns. The entire League of Nations were decimated on RAW last Monday night, and if we’ve learned anything by decades of WWE booking is that 99% of the time the person laid out on RAW is the person winning the following Sunday.
Sheamus is a capable transitional champion. He’s hated because he’s “boring”…something that Vince et all don’t really care about. They love his size, his look, his ability, and the fact that he can handle the promotion leading up to the big event. Having the League of Nations in Lesnar’s corner as he battles against the odds to win the championship in front of 100,000 fans is the only match that, to me, makes the most sense from a business point of view. Add to the fact that they’ve already had a one-match “try-out” at a recent house show, and I think I’ve got a better than 50/50 chance of being right.
Yes, I realize that I’m simply hoping against hope that Vince doesn’t think Triple H vs Roman Reigns is the only main event possible at WrestleMania at this point. I totally realize that Reigns winning the title against Trips is what Vince firmly believes the match that finally “makes” Reigns. I don’t think that will help Roman immediately, though. It’ll be great to look back on his career in 15 years’ time and use the moment in montages for his Hall of Fame induction, but he’s still going to be booed for the rest of his career until he turns heel again and THE FANS turn him babyface.
So I’m hoping that WWE finally realizes that and goes with a swerve that fans will get behind (please…try convincing me that Sheamus and Lesnar beating the shit out of each other for 20 minutes wouldn’t be entertaining as hell). Hell…Triple H vs Roman Reigns could still be the primary selling point of the show without needing the title to make it interesting.
But these are just my thoughts. Who do YOU think will win the Royal Rumble?