John: Welcome to the TJRWrestling WWE Royal Rumble preview. The show this place this Sunday, January 29 at the Alamadome in San Antonio, Texas with an expected crowd of 40,000 people or more depending on how ticket sales go.
It’s a long show with four hours slated for the five matches on the main show and two hours for the Kickoff Show, which will feature three matches. The one thing we all need to keep in mind is that the Smackdown brand has Elimination Chamber in two weeks on February 12 and the Raw brand has Fastlane in early March, so people that win matches here may be doing something else at one of those shows to alter their plans. It makes this a very unpredictable show, which is a great thing. I think the lineup looks pretty good, so let’s get to it.
Joining me for the preview are Kurt Zamora, Matthew J. Douglas and Mike Holland.
(Note: All graphics are from WWE.com. The banner is courtesy of our friend Melo Man.)
Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax (Kickoff Show)
Kurt: I was quite confused and annoyed by the segment on Raw between these two. Is Sasha’s knee ok or not? Did she not actually need the crutch? The announcers said she “seemed to be fine” but you would think they would’ve been told to say something along the lines of Sasha just outsmarted Nia Jax if that’s the route they were taking. That element can completely change the course of this match for me. If the knee is still hurt, Nia will dominate and win. If it’s not, then Sasha will probably come out looking like a fighter and never backing down, but ultimately succumbing to Nia’s size. Either way, Nia needs the win more so I’m picking her.
Prediction: Nia Jax
Matt: I want to be able to pretend that I care about this match here, but honestly I don’t. I like Sasha as a performer and a worker, but she’s a bit miscast (we are in the Miscast Era) as the plucky babyface facing off against the evil, dominating monster (I have a hard time buying Nia in this role as well). I feel like these two could work well together in very different roles, although I did like the taped attack on Sasha while she was testing her knee out in the ring before Raw. It was an interesting idea and a bit of a peak behind the curtain.
As far as the match goes, I probably won’t see it, so it being bad won’t bug me, but it will probably be subpar. The wrestling bar is higher than it’s ever been in the WWE.
Winner: Nia Jax (because they’ll want to sell the Sasha injury)
Mike: It’s hard to disbelieve the scuttlebutt that Sasha Banks is on the outs with management, given her crash landing back to reality after a very solid 2016 and now being reduced to an opening act on the kickoff show. That’s not to throw shade on her as much as to state the obvious, which is that Nia Jax’s run toward the title has officially begun in a major way. This feud has been decent as far as WWE’s builds generally go, with Jax dominating the Boss physically at nearly every turn and taking advantage of her real and worked injuries as a true heel will.
Banks is now teasing a Smackdown visitation, but unfortunately for her the blue brand is already chock full of heels and that seems the next logical destination for her character until WWE smartens up. Jax is clearly being groomed for bigger things, but I’m not so sure that equals a victory before the party really starts. With the Charlotte/Bayley dynamic firmly entrenched for now, I smell an upset for those brave enough to endure the preview. I’d also note that Jax might come across even better in a losing effort with a post-match decimation.
Winner: Sasha Banks
John: I think it’s a big match for Jax to show how good she can be. Some of her NXT matches with Bayley and Asuka were good, but the other girls got more of the credit. Banks should do well as the smaller face that sells for Jax’s power moves.
It could go either way as far as the winner goes, but I think Nia Jax is at the point in her career where she needs a win at a major show to gain credibility. She’s still new and has spent most of the last six months beating no name women in one minute matches. Banks is a former three-time Women’s Champion, so a win over her raises Jax’s stock a bit in the eyes of the fans. With Banks selling the knee injury, look for that play into the finish as Jax focuses on it. I think Jax should get the win here.
Winner: Nia Jax
Raw Tag Team Championships (Kickoff Show): Cesaro & Sheamus vs. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson (Note: Two referees will be assigned to this match.)
Kurt: This stipulation feels completely unnecessary. The issue wasn’t needing a second ref, because Gallows and Anderson had the second ref come in to count the three, but the original ref reversed the decision. Does this stipulation mean that if the same scenario happened again, the original ref would not be able to reverse the decision? Those are the little details that WWE doesn’t pay attention to enough.
I feel like with all these start and stop pushes for Gallows & Anderson that they really just need to give them the belts by now after all these opportunities. Considering this match is only on the pre-show and it seems the company is invested in Sheamus and Cesaro as a tag team, I think the champs will retain.
Prediction: Cesaro and Sheamus retain
Matt: This match is going to be a mess, and it kind of has to be. You see, if having two referees work a match is shown to make any modicum of sense, then when the WWE doesn’t make it the norm, the whole suspension of disbelief becomes unstable. WWE referees are the worst in all of sport, and the fact that until now they haven’t tried having two refs for matches is ludicrous. As I don’t anticipate a change to the standard WWE in the future, with two referees becoming a practical solution to the easy distractibility of referees, this match has to devolve into chaos because of the stipulation. It’s the only thing that can happen.
As far as the wrestlers in this match, they’re all good workers, but nobody is getting over here. Cesaro and Sheamus are done to me. Winning the titles is literally the worst thing that could have happened for their longevity. There’s nothing interesting left narratively for the pair to do or accomplish. Gallows and Anderson are pretty much as cold as cold can be. If only the WWE had Tag Teams that get a reaction and are charismatic as hell… oh wait they do in Enzo and Cass and The New Day, who have all been doing nothing.
Winners and New Tag Team Champions: Gallows and Anderson (because if they lose again, they’re done)
Mike: I’m never wicked excited about putting belts on the line in a match before the show, but this Rumble card is relatively loaded and at least two of these four men will be participating in the over-the-topper as well, so I guess I’m forced to allow it. It’s a bit refreshing to have a Raw Tag Titles match not featuring the suddenly-dragging New Day, to be honest, but that might be countered by the fact that Sheamus and Cesaro still isn’t really working in the way WWE likely intended them to. Both struggle with the verbal side, and Cesaro’s immense popularity with the majority of the audience is stalled by tying the ankle weight of Sheamus to him.
Gallows & Anderson have never gotten their due since being the “other guys” that came over from Japan, and their battles with the ridiculous and unfunny creative angles tossed their way demonstrate the danger that comes from Titan Tower when not scripting their own. They are overdue for a run with the gold, and with the current titleholders participating in the Rumble match, the seeds are likely sown for trouble in paradise. Please commit to doing something productive with the Swiss Superman, WWE.
Winners (and NEW Raw Tag Team Champions): Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson
John: It’s a difficult match to predict because the champs have only had the titles for one month. Perhaps it’s too soon to take the titles off them. The direction of the Raw tag titles should see Gallows & Anderson win the gold at some point in the near future so they can have a feud with Enzo & Cass, who make sense as tag champs with a win at WrestleMania. I think there will be a title change within the next week or two, but it won’t be at this show.
As for the two referees thing, it was put in place because Sheamus accidentally hit a ref during their last title match. The story is that the second ref will be there to try to prevent anything cheap from happening. What I think that means is the heel team of Gallows & Anderson will be stopped when they try to cheat, Sheamus or Cesaro will capitalize and the champs retain. That can lead to a “last chance” kind of match on Raw where Gallows & Anderson finally win. It wouldn’t shock me if there’s a title change here, though.
Winners: Cesaro & Sheamus
Nikki Bella, Naomi & Becky Lynch vs. Mickie James, Natalya & Alexa Bliss (Kickoff Show)
(Note: This was added to the Kickoff Show on Thursday evening.)
Kurt: This PPV feels a little Raw heavy, which is understandable considering that Smackdown has their next PPV in just two weeks. With that said, I’m happy they were able to find a space for the women of Smackdown as I feel their division has far surpassed the Raw division and deserves a spotlight on a PPV of this magnitude. Think about how long we had to deal with Charlotte vs. Sasha, with nothing else going on, but on Smackdown we have three solid storylines all at once for the women’s division. Just another feather in the cap of the superior brand.
I would not be surprised to see these six women split into three separate matches at Elimination Chamber, but in order for that to happen, Naomi has to pin Alexa Bliss in this match. After some hopefully high paced action from these six who can all go, that’s exactly what I predict to happen.
Prediction: Becky Lynch, Naomi, & Nikki Bella
Matt: The Smackdown Women’s Division, with the addition of Mickie James, is crazy stacked. The depth to have six female competitors that are all involved in some kind of angle or rivalry, and for all of them to be interesting is a major feat. Raw struggles to keep fans interested in four women.
Individually these feuds all have some juice. The Nikki/Natalya feud has been going on really since before Survivor Series, and it still feels fresh. Becky Lynch vs Mickie James has me intrigued as Mickie brought up some great points in her return promo from this week’s Smackdown Live. Bliss taking on Naomi is cool because they’re two women who I’ve always appreciated as performers who are now getting the chance to be in a Title feud. It’s crazy to think that this match is likely setting up three singles matches featuring the women for Elimination Chamber. That’s depth.
Winners: Mickie, Natalya and Alexa (because heels gotta go over)
Mike: What do you do when you have two solid singles feuds and not nearly enough time on the show? Have a tag team match and holla, playa! I really wish Shane and Daniel Bryan would stop ripping off Teddy Long’s ideas. The return of Mickie James has made the women’s division even deeper on Smackdown, but it’s also created a bit of a logjam in Becky Lynch’s quest to unseat the upstart Alexa Bliss. This battle has been solid since the start, and injecting some more intrigue is never a bad thing. Ditto Nikki and Natalya, which has given both ladies something effective to do while playing off both Total Divas AND pseudo-reality storylines all in one.
Oh, yeah, and Naomi’s there too. I think. Maybe I’m just not feeling the glow, but to me this match comes down to furthering the story of Mickie James and her connection/kinship with Miss Bliss. That pairing appears destined for destruction sooner rather than later, and it should be spectacular. For now, though, I see the others canceling themselves out and James preventing Lynch from getting her revenge. Maybe Bliss scores the pin to create some impending friction. Welcome back, MJ.
Winners: Mickie James, Natalya & Alexa Bliss
John: I am disappointed that it’s not on the main show, but I guess it’s not a big deal. Most people watching have WWE Network anyway. It’s just that this show is so long that a lot of fans aren’t even going to watch the Kickoff matches, which sucks for the performers.
I’m rolling with the heels in this match because I think Mickie should get the win in her first PPV match in nearly seven years. There’s a possibility that Naomi beats Bliss to set up title program while Nikki/Natalya and Becky/Mickie obviously have feuds that should lead to matches at Elimination Chamber. I love the booking of Smackdown’s women right now. Great job by their creative team.
Winners: Mickie James, Natalya & Alexa Bliss
Cruiserweight Championship: Rich Swann vs. Neville
Kurt: Kudos to Neville for completely reinventing himself as a heel and managing to stand out amidst all the multiple man Cruiserweight matches where no one stands out. With the length of this PPV and only four undercard matches, I really hope this match gets the amount of time it needs and deserves to stand out. I would like to see the personal aspect of this rivalry really come through with some physical brawling to go along with the great chain wrestling and high spots that come standard in a Cruiserweight match. I think with the babyface side so loaded with challengers for the title, the smart move is to do the title change now and give the belt to Neville. Even though that’ll already be four title changes in four months, it’s still the right move.
Prediction: New Cruiserweight Champion, Neville
Matt: There was a time a few weeks ago, where I’d have argued that Rich Swann’s run being cut short was a bad thing, but as weeks have progressed, I’ve come to the conclusion that it really doesn’t make a difference. He’s no more over than he was before he won the title, and on the whole the division is full of half baked characters and gimmicks that people are trained to believe are a sideshow of less importance.
Neville is the only character that has been presented in a fully fleshed out manner. You could wait to crown him, but I don’t really see the point in that. Just get it over with now, and Swann can slip into obscurity like every single other former Cruiserweight Champion this division has produced.
Winner and New Cruiserweight Champion: Neville (because it’s inevitable and why prolong it)
Mike: WWE recovered from the aborted and odd cruisers-to-Smackdown angle to do pretty much the first thing to jazz anyone since they turned the ropes purple on the red brand, which is to not only welcome the excellent worker Neville back to the fold but also to allow him to be the badass heel of the division we’ve been dying to see. I can’t condone what they’ve done overall with the cruisers, but Neville’s energy and random skullduggery has been the best thing on television since the CWC. Bravo.
As for Rich Swann, he has undeniable charisma but serves as the poster child for the forced attempt at readying the spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down. It’s unfortunate that in the attempt to create more dimension for Swann, they’ve done the opposite and boxed him into previously performed roles. The only way to get juice is a relationship angle? Yawn. Everything points to Neville displacing Swann here, and that’s why I’m unconvinced it occurs. Yet. The cruiserweight title has been passed around more than a joint at a Dave Matthews concert. Neville will undoubtedly claim it, but why rush? Either a DQ or a surprise pin followed by more evil antics.
Winner (and STILL Cruiserweight Champion): Rich Swann
John: Neville is one of the best characters on either show right now. All it took was a much needed heel turn after he was off TV for much of the time after the brand split. They were wasting his talent, but now they are maximizing it. He’s a star that can be the leader of the cruiserweight division. As others have noted, there’s a lot more depth on the babyface side of the cruiserweight division now, so having Neville as the champion for half a year or longer is a good move in my opinion.
It sucks for Swann because I like him as a performer and he’s only held the title for two months, but it’s more important to get it on the hotter act. That’s Neville. I’m also optimistic that they are going to have 15 minutes or so because there’s a lot of time for the matches on this show. We could be looking at the best cruiserweight match that WWE has had on their main roster.
Winner and New Cruiserweight Champion: Neville
Raw Women’s Championship: Charlotte Flair vs. Bayley
Kurt: Leave it to the Raw writers to finally give Bayley the push she deserves, only to ruin by making her recite awful poems that makes the crowd turn on her. The quality of this match isn’t in question because obviously these two will tear the house down, and with what should be a “smart” crowd in attendance, I would expect them to be red hot for Bayley. I just don’t understand why it was so hard to keep Bayley as she was in NXT and not water her down as they have and focused more on what made her become Bayley instead of what she’s become since becoming Bayley.
With Charlotte’s 15-0 PPV record hanging in the balance and an emphasis being placed on it, that really seems like a streak destined to be broken at WrestleMania. After a competitive match and I’m sure multiple near falls for Bayley, Charlotte will find a way to squeak out the victory and the feud will continue.
Prediction: Charlotte retains
Matt: I have two opposing thoughts here. On the one hand, I like this rivalry. On paper it makes sense. The daughter of a legend that didn’t have to toil to get here and thinks of herself as royalty, and the fan who made it to the WWE against all odds. These two women are diametrically opposed archetypes and forces. Their promos are vastly different, their looks are completely different, these two women contrast one another so well, that they are the perfect compliment for each other.
With all that said, something about this feud isn’t quite clicking for me. It might just be that poetry segment which was awful and misplaced (I feel that’s a promo you do after Charlotte beats her), or it might be the fact that the portrayal of the Bayley character on Raw is odd to me. Is her history on NXT cannon? Because it adds a lot to the character. Having seen it all, I get and respect her character and the worker immensely, but they never cite her history or prior accomplishments, and I know not every fan watches NXT, so her entire existence is confusing on the main roster. The two should have a good match and I’m hoping this is just the start of greater things to come.
Winner and Still Raw Women’s Champion: Charlotte (because the title has changed hands enough for a while, Bayley chasing for a while is the smart play)
Mike: Did you know that Charlotte never loses at pay-per-views? No, really, she just doesn’t. I’m not sure if that was inked into effect as part of Ric’s Legends deal, but WWE seems intent on presenting Charlotte as the most dominant champion on the Raw side of the ledger. For me, I’ve loved her ring work without a doubt, but the promos have been beyond grating since nearly the start. We were treated to some truly excellent action between her and Banks last year, but the page has turned and it’s the immensely likable and popular Bayley who will challenge the champion next.
Full disclosure: Bayley does nothing for me. I’m not the target demographic, clearly, but I found her a bazillion times better in NXT. I do see her eventually going over Charlotte, if just for the merchandising options and appeal alone, but not at the Rumble. The journey is always better when you go over a few bumps along the way, and this smells to me like it’s setting up for a WrestleMania showdown complete with the Hugger overcoming all odds and history to land the belt. Charlotte will be this close to getting beat and pull it out in the end.
Winner (and STILL Raw Women’s Champion): Charlotte
John: The build for this match has been okay, but I’m not that excited for it. The problem is they’ve done the match a few times in non-title situations to get Bayley over as a threat, which she has mentioned a few times noting that she has beaten Charlotte twice. The promo two weeks ago with the poem was brutal because the crowd was booing Bayley for how lame it was. Last week with the sit-down interviews was okay, but it was nothing that got me any more excited about the match.
There have been enough title changes with this title in the last six months. Let a champion have a decent reign for once, or at least until WrestleMania in this case. That’s when Bayley will win it whether it’s a singles match or a rumored four way with Banks and Jax involved as well.
Winner: Charlotte Flair
WWE Universal Championship No Disqualification Match: Kevin Owens vs. Roman Reigns
(Stipulation: Chris Jericho will be suspended above the ring in a shark cage)
Kurt: In case you weren’t aware, the only reason Chris Jericho is being hung in the air in a shark cage is so WWE can sell some action figure sets. Seriously. You can purchase your own version here! The stipulation got even dumber when they announced it was a no disqualification match on Monday. If there are no disqualifications, why should Jericho have to be suspended above in the cage? If he were to get involved and help Owens, it wouldn’t be a disqualification!
I’ve said it numerous times, I’m a big Roman Reigns fan, but man they do him no favors at all. Between things like this and editing crowd reactions during video packages, I just can’t imagine how anyone in WWE is thinking this is working with Reigns. Nonetheless, in order for the ball to start rolling for Owens vs. Jericho, I think it’s time to give the belt to Reigns and see what happens from there. I expect a really good, hard hitting match. I see Jericho dropping something from the cage to try and help Owens and either it backfires or Owens uses it but Reigns still kicks out and then ultimately defeats Owens. Then the next night on Raw, Owens can start blaming Jericho for him losing the title and thus starts the Y2J face turn.
Prediction: New Universal Champion, Roman Reigns
Matt: Of all the matches on this card, a lot about this one seems telegraphed, which isn’t bad. The storytelling has been fairly simple here, with Owens and Jericho sewing the seeds for their eventual feud while working together to undermine Roman Reigns (in a chase for the United States Championship that probably went on a little too long, to the point where the outcome became painfully obvious).
It seems fairly obvious that Roman Reigns is winning the belt at The Royal Rumble, setting up for a much-anticipated feud between Owens and Jericho. Where Roman goes from here is up for speculation. He still leaves a lot to be desired as a character and is as miscast as anybody on the roster. Maybe steps will be made to rectify this once he’s captured Raw’s top prize. Maybe not. One thing is for sure, nobody will be surprised if Roman takes the Universal Championship this Sunday with Jericho hanging high above in a Shark Cage.
Winner and New Universal Champion: Roman Reigns (because it’s patently obvious)
Mike: There’s plenty going on with this one, and that’s appropriate considering it feels like we’ve seen Kevin Owens, Chris Jericho, and Roman Reigns in various iterations of the same match since, I dunno, the dawn of time. Can we move on already please? The dynamic of team JeriKO has propelled Raw for several months now, and on the opposite side of the ledger Roman Reigns was quietly rewarded with the United States Title to pacify his fans while the general public continued to vehemently foam at the mouth over the prospect of him being Universal Champ. It’s almost become ridiculous on both sides at this point.
This match took even more shape for me with Jericho winning Reigns’ US belt recently, as I think his part of the story has been so solid the company will look to move it just as surreptitiously to the undercard while rolling the dice they’ve wanted to roll since the start. Jericho will certainly not be remaining in the cage for the whole match, and the no-DQ rule brings up some interesting possibilities should Seth Rollins understandably get something to do while evening the odds for Team Roman. It will likely be Seth’s involvement that will fuel Triple H to return to battle with him, and Jericho’s failure while holding a belt of his own that finally implodes the friendship with KO and leaves them to pick the bones at the big dance.
It’s probably not a fair return for what Owens has brought to the top of the card since summarily replacing Finn Balor due to injury, but that’s how it goes sometimes. The coronation of Roman Reigns has been underway forever, and it wasn’t our voices but his suspension that temporarily delayed the inevitable. That much is unfortunately and totally assured.
Winner (and NEW Universal Champion): Roman Reigns
John: It’s a shame that they have done this match so many times in the last two months because if it was a fresh match I’d be more excited about it. Since we’ve seen it so often, this doesn’t feel like as big of a deal to me. I like both guys and feel like they can tell a good story for 20 minutes, but the crowd may lose interest especially since Reigns is booed heavily even though he’s supposed to be a face.
The storyline surrounding KO’s title reign has been that he finds a way to hold onto the gold because of Jericho constantly doing things to help him keep the title. Now that Jericho is unable to cheat due to being in a cage (or so we think), it should mean a win for Reigns now that he has a fair fight. It makes a lot of sense to have Owens upset after the loss while Jericho still has a title talking about how THEY are the US Champion. Owens can snap, say he’s not the champion, just Jericho is and have Owens hit him with a Powerbomb on the apron to give Jericho a break for a few weeks. Then Jericho comes back as a face, they have the US Title match at WrestleMania and Jericho takes time off to focus on his music.
I’ll add this too: If Owens retains here, I expect him to drop the Universal Title before WrestleMania. I’m not sure when or to who, but I doubt he holds the title until the big show in Orlando.
Winner and New Universal Champion: Roman Reigns
WWE Championship: AJ Styles vs. John Cena
Kurt: Very rarely in this day and age of scripted promos, do we get a verbal battle between two competitors that actually sells a match and convinces fans to go out of their way to watch. The promo between John Cena and AJ Styles from Tuesday’s Smackdown did just that. It was a given before that, that this match would be a classic and would start the 2017 contender’s list for Match of the Year. However, there was something different, almost another gear that they both reached in that promo that made you FEEL this match would be a classic.
Styles has every reason to feel slighted by the company and to feel in John Cena’s shadow. Cena, for all his confidence, has never beaten Styles one on one. That twinge of doubt is still there for him. A lot of fans feel that if Styles loses to Cena, he’ll quickly be forgotten about and all the work he’s put in will be for naught. That’s ridiculous. First off, John Cena WILL be World Champion again. If it’s not Styles he’s beating, it’ll be another one of your favorites that you think he’s burying. Secondly, Styles has made himself a household name. He’s too good to be anywhere else but the top. Have no fear though, this will not be the night Styles loses the title. I think his time, if he is destined to lose it before WrestleMania, will be at Elimination Chamber. This match will be even better than their clash at SummerSlam, so just sit back and enjoy the ride.
Prediction: AJ Styles retains
Matt: I’ve gone back and forth in my mind about this match all week. I was sure that Cena was going to win the title until Smackdown Live on Tuesday. However, the way that the promo between he and Styles played out, I really don’t see how Cena winning helps anybody. Cena verbally buried Styles in a way that was really counterproductive. I mean, saying that the guy is only Champion because you let him be, that he’s not even on the level below you, that all he wants is to be you, and that he’s just a guy. This was not just clever or funny trash talk. Everything Cena said about AJ served only to diminish AJ Styles as a Champion and as a competitor… not what you want to be doing heading into your huge Title match that you want people to get excited about.
If they were going to go that route with Cena, they should have at least let AJ get the last word and remind Cena that he’s beaten him multiple times and that last year when Cena was making movies or nursing injuries that kept him out of Wrestlemania, the WWE called him to come in and make a splash. “I’m not replacing you because I want to Cena, I’m replacing you because the company needed me to. That’s why when you were out, they called me! You keep telling yourself that your time is now, you need to. You need to keep reminding yourself that you’re important, because deep down you know, you can’t quite hang with a guy like me anymore. You’ve got one foot out the door, and this Sunday, I kick you out.”
The way that things went, Cena going over kills any legitimacy AJ earned by beating Cena before, and Cena gains very little because he said that AJ is essentially a no talent bum. He showed zero respect for his opponent, which I believe is in stark contradiction with the third of his 3 commandments of Cenation. The match will be spectacular, there’s no reason to doubt that, but I’m having a really hard time reconciling what the finish should be narratively.
Winner and Still WWE Champion: AJ Styles (because I feel like going rogue. Cena winning doesn’t feel right in light of the promos from Tuesday night. I’m probably wrong, but I’ve made my choice)
Mike: The two major title matches, as usual in this type of affair, have as much to do with what happens elsewhere on the card and shortly thereafter as it does with the battles themselves. John Cena has displayed an understanding that comes with time and age regarding his win/loss record being far less important than his drawing power, and that’s one match he never loses ironically enough. It’s worked a treat for getting Styles even further over, and I’m convinced that no matter the outcome of this match he’s a rock star for years. Console yourself with that, Cena haters.
The match itself will be tremendous, as every one in this series has been. Styles has laid the groundwork for a loss with his promos leading up to Sunday, as well as the constantly-bellowed bon mot about Cena’s chasing of Flair’s titles. The issue, though, is twofold: Is the time right for John to win (as he certainly will at some point) while his docket remains full of other pressing entertainment ventures, and what will the winner of the Rumble itself mean to the outcome here?
Given what I’m predicting shortly, the answer is clear. Cena is bound for another trip with Smackdown’s big belt, but AJ’s work has been solid all year and his time won’t come until JC can fully commit for a while. It also plays nicely with his angle of always being counted out and underappreciated. Styles will get his comeuppance, but I don’t see it happening just yet. Consider it a stay of execution.
Winner (and STILL WWE Champion): AJ Styles
John: This will be one of the best WWE matches this year. The way the show is set up with just four matches plus the Rumble set to take place on a four-hour show means that this match is probably 30+ minutes and maybe over 40 minutes. I feel like they’re going to do everything they can to top the awesome Okada/Omega match from New Japan’s WrestleKingdom 11. It’s not going to be easy to do that in the eyes of a lot of people, but I feel like they are going to be giving a lot of time to tell an incredible story.
They have had big matches before with Styles winning every time, at least on television. Styles got the win at Money in the Bank, SummerSlam and No Mercy (in a three way with Ambrose) last year. When they do matches at house shows Cena wins, but only the matches on television really matter. Due to that history, the story becomes about whether Cena can finally beat this guy. It’s an interesting dynamic that will make the match even more compelling than it already is.
I think Styles will hold onto the title here and lose it at Elimination Chamber in two weeks. That will set up Styles vs. Shane McMahon at WrestleMania. That’s the rumored match for Styles, so the story reason would be that he’s mad that Shane made Styles defend the title against five other guys. For this match I’m going Styles although I don’t think it’s a lock by any means.
Winner: AJ Styles
30-Man Royal Rumble Match
There are 22 names announced for the match so far. The names are: The Undertaker, Goldberg, Brock Lesnar, Big Show, Dean Ambrose, The Miz, Sami Zayn, Dolph Ziggler, Big E, Xavier Woods, Kofi Kingston, Bray Wyatt, Randy Orton, Luke Harper, Braun Strowman, Chris Jericho, Baron Corbin, Cesaro, Sheamus, Big Cass, Rusev and Mojo Rawley. The source for that list is WWE’s Royal Rumble page: http://www.wwe.com/shows/royalrumble/2017/2017-royal-rumble-match
Kurt: If you listened to the latest episode of The Match Beyond podcast (and if you haven’t, why not?) then you already know my prediction, so I’ll just rehash my thoughts. I think this will go down as the best Royal Rumble of all time. When you combine the star studded field that this match has with the fact that there is not one clear cut obvious choice, and with the fact that they should EASILY have over an hour for this match and not make the entrants feel rushed, then this should be one for the history books.
The fact that there isn’t one clear cut winner is the big one for me. I think with Elimination Chamber in two weeks, you can set up your Smackdown WrestleMania main event through that, so to me, that eliminates someone from the Blue Brand winning the Rumble. In complete honesty, I think the winner is someone that has yet to be announced. (As of submitting this, there was 8 spots still unannounced.) However, since I don’t want to come across as a cop out and want to put a name to the prediction, my choice is The Undertaker.
I don’t necessarily buy the fact that Cena vs. Undertaker is off the cards, but even if it is, what’s wrong with Undertaker vs. AJ Styles? Or Undertaker vs. Roman Reigns based on my prediction above? Also, since Undertaker came out on Raw and basically said that he goes where he wants, when he wants, he’s officially the only guy in the Rumble that can create some mystery on what title he’s going for. Even Goldberg said on Raw that he was gunning for the Universal Title specifically. Since we’re led to believe that no one roster “owns” The Undertaker, he provides the only suspense that you can use for a few weeks while we get through February and then head into the true WrestleMania stretch run in March. I would have him win the Rumble and then wait until after Fastlane to announce whom he’ll face at WrestleMania. Imagine if you’re Cena or Styles and you have to beat the other at the Rumble, then two weeks later you have to survive the Elimination Chamber, only to find out afterwards you now have to go through The Deadman at WrestleMania. That’s great suspense right there.
Wrestler That Lasts the Longest: The Miz
Most Eliminations: Braun Strowman
Winner: The Undertaker
Matt: I’m not super excited for this year’s Rumble. I’ll watch, I’ll participate in my party’s pool, I’ll pop for Samoa Joe and Kofi’s annual avoiding elimination spot, and for any other fun surprises the Rumble is sure to bring; but I will not get my hopes up. Mostly because I know another Geriatric Superstar is going to win what was once a vehicle for a young superstar to vault themselves into title contention on a stage where they could make a name for themselves and become a star. Maybe it’s just because of the availability of dirt sheet rumors these days, which often spell out The Rumble winner weeks in advance, or maybe it’s the fact that this year’s Rumble is headlined by a bunch of old dudes, but this Rumble feels less special to me.
I have no real reverence for the past or the stars of yesteryear. I’m always ready to look forward, which is probably why I’m underwhelmed by this year’s Royal Rumble and with Wrestlemania season in general. It all seems about looking backward now, not forward. Yet they wonder why they struggle to create new stars.
Newsflash: The old stars, The Shawn Michaels, The Stone Colds, The Rocks, The Undertakers, Triple Hs, Harts, Hogans, Flairs and Savages were all forged at Wrestlemanias. They all have great Wrestlemania moments, where they rose to the top. They almost all punched their ticket to make those moments at Royal Rumbles. But instead of a young up and coming guy being made into a star, we’re going to focus on looking backward at The Undertaker, Goldberg and Brock Lesner (the youngest of these three is turning 40 this year while the other two are in their 50s). I hope I’m wrong. I hope this year’s Rumble is used to christen somebody new.
Wrestler That Lasts The Longest: Sami Zayn
Most Eliminations: Braun Strowman
Winner: The Undertaker
Mike: I will say it’s hard not to be excited by the prospects of the Royal Rumble this year, which has largely dispensed of much of its usual filler and occupied a great deal of space with viable candidates to get their hands raised. That’s a good bit of what makes the Rumble unique: There are so many potential storylines playing out for past, present, and future that it’s difficult to know exactly what will happen. Then again, that’s why you have us!
I’ll begin with the profoundly obvious: Brock Lesnar and Goldberg ain’t winning. While having both of them in the match adds prestige and luster, they are clearly due for a date at WM and will factor into each other’s destruction here. Also, not getting their pick of the title match would be anyone in a tag team (though I am hoping to see some New Day turmoil and expecting Randy Orton to further the storyline of the Wyatt Family implosion). Big Show is of course a threat to win every year (just ask Michael Cole) and therefore has ABS-olutely no shot whatsoever. He goes out at the hands of Shaq whether he’s in the match again this year or not.
Jericho would be an interesting name if not for the Owens situation. Owens losing guarantees he’s involved in some way in costing Y2J his own opportunity at the big gold, likely after a lengthy run in the Rumble. The other interesting name of note going on is of course the behemoth Braun Strowman, especially since he’s been booked like a stud for the last few months. It’s always possible that WWE treads the trodden trail and goes with him, but I don’t see it. I think he does an admirable job of racking up the eliminations before setting up a feud with whoever removes him. (Lest you forget, Sami Zayn is in this match too. Take note.)
Corbin and Rusev are solid B-level brawlers who could hang for a bit to get street cred, Miz will be Miz, and can there be any doubt he and Dean Ambrose get reunited before the match is out? One intriguing name not being hugely discussed is Dolph Ziggler, whose recent change of heart bodes well for his future and could lead to him having one hell of a night. To me, though, you don’t bring Undertaker out of mothballs for nothing, and this would be as good a time as any to give him one “last ride” through the Smackdown championship scene. It’s possible that he’s used merely to set up his next feud, but WWE generally goes with the A-listers here and I see him pursuing AJ Styles to add to his legend. Plus, he’s got some history with Texas. Taker has plenty of endurance and can still go, and should put the cap on a very memorable and star-studded Rumble match.
Bonus thought: As much as I would love to see Samoa Joe in here, it’s frankly not needed. I fear any non-retro surprise entrants will be overshadowed by the level of talent already participating. Save him for a meaty Raw angle Monday.
Wrestler That Lasts The Longest: Sami Zayn
Most Eliminations: Braun Strowman
Winner: The Undertaker
John: The match has been built up well because there are several possible candidates that could win. While that aspect of it is exciting, I’m disappointed that most of the favorites to win are part timers like Undertaker, Goldberg and Lesnar. My three friends here all picked Undertaker to win. I wouldn’t hate it by any means, but does the oldest guy in this match really need to be put over? The Rumble match should be about elevating somebody who would be fresh as a main eventer.
I have a tough time thinking Goldberg or Lesnar will win although there is a scenario that would work. We know Goldberg is wrestling at Fastlane, so he might be the one to take the Universal Title from Kevin Owens at that show…if they don’t have Reigns win it at the Rumble. If Lesnar wins the Rumble then that sets up WrestleMania against Goldberg. Do they really need a title for their match? I don’t think so, which is why I’d go against that idea. I think Goldberg will eliminate Lesnar, then Lesnar will go back in, attack Goldberg and lead to Goldberg getting dumped out.
I think Finn Balor’s going to be in the match. We don’t know if his medical testing went well enough to clear him, but I just have a feeling he’ll be there. If he’s in he has a definite shot to win.
Samoa Joe makes a lot of sense as a guy to debut in the match since he’s not a part of the NXT event one night earlier. Having him win this match would be an incredible way to debut him, but I’m not sure if Vince McMahon is convinced enough to put him over everybody else.
I don’t think Shinsuke Nakamura will be the match. I think he’s keeping his title at NXT Takeover on Saturday and if that happens like I expect then I think they will hold off on his main roster debut. I’d love to be wrong about that, though.
Seth Rollins is currently not a part of the match, but I feel like they will find a way to get him in there. Then, once he’s in the match, have Triple H come out to screw him out of the victory. It could also be Triple H that’s in the match and Rollins screws him out of the win too. There are a few different ways to set up their WrestleMania match.
Baron Corbin has a shot to make a significant impact in the match. He’s a guy that should be considered a favorite because he’s a younger guy that’s on the rise. I just don’t see him as a winner of the match even though it would help him a lot.
It would be great to see somebody like Sami Zayn or Cesaro have an impressive showing in the match that makes us think one of them will win, but I don’t see that happening. The Miz or Dolph Ziggler would benefit greatly from a memorable performance as well. Again, though, they don’t come off as potential winners to me.
The reason I have picked Braun Strowman is because he would be a new main event performer that can fill the role as a dominant giant that Vince McMahon loves on his shows. I am not a huge Strowman fan or anything like that, but I think he fits what Vince wants in terms of a guy to push in a major way.
I really want to stay with my Strowman pick, but after the reports that came out this week about Randy Orton likely winning there’s a part of me that wants to pick him too. I’m not sure who Strowman might be matched up with at WrestleMania while Orton winning here and Bray Wyatt winning the WWE Title at Elimination Chamber makes sense. I’ll stick with Strowman since I’ve said it for over a month, but I really don’t know.
This should be a fun match. I hope it delivers the kind of memorable moments that have helped shape the Rumble as a special event. The potential is there for greatness, so here’s hoping they can live up to that potential.
Wrestler That Lasts The Longest: Dean Ambrose
Most Eliminations: Braun Strowman
Winner: Braun Strowman (Randy Orton is my other pick. Can I pick two? Heel Canton!)
John: It’s going to be an interesting, newsworthy night. Let’s just hope it’s newsworthy in a positive way because some of the more recent Royal Rumble events led to a lot of negativity and that’s never a good thing. The potential is there for an outstanding show if everybody goes right.
I will write a live review of WWE Royal Rumble this Sunday night during the show, so check out TJRWrestling.net during the show or after it’s over for my thoughts on everything.
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Kurt – @KTankTMB
Matt – @MJDP_GSE
Mike – @DharmanRockwell
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