PHILADELPHIA, USA – It’s more Rumble than ever. More than that, it’s anyone’s game right now.
The first Royal Rumble show with two Royal Rumble matches—the usual for the men and a groundbreaking Rumble match for the women’s divisions—has opened the field for pretty much anyone who wants to make a name for himself or herself.
Of course, this is still a scripted sport and whoever the WWE wants to win shots at the main event of WrestleMania will end up winning, but for the first time in a long while there’s no clear favorite to take it home.
It’s interesting when you really think about it—is it a matter of there being so many talented up-and-comers in the locker room, or is it because the company hasn’t really built anyone up to the point of clear favoritism? There’s always Roman Reigns, who just lost the Intercontinental Championship to the returning Miz, but even that isn’t so obvious a route than it was a few years ago.
So at this point, it’s an open debate between who each of us wants to win the match and who’s actually going on to win the match. I’ll do my best to make sense of all of this, in the meantime, with my usual predictions:
Bobby Roode vs. TBD in a kickoff match for the WWE United States Championship
This is probably going to be a rehash of the finals from last week, in which Roode defeated Jinder Mahal. It wasn’t a bad match at all, and it’s matches like those that’ll give Mahal the experience he needs to improve while retaining some sort of momentum for his SmackDown run.
› Winner: Bobby Roode
Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson vs. The Revival in a tag team kickoff match
The Revival are officially back, and their first hurrah since returning from an injury-forced hiatus was getting punked by the Dudley Boyz on RAW 25. Gallows and Anderson have some newfound momentum ever since they officially teamed up with Finn Balor, but the Revival will need something to make them look strong. I have a feeling they’ll take this one, since it doesn’t really count that much anyway.
› Winner: The Revival
Kalisto, Lince Dorado, and Gran Metalik vs. TJP, Jack Gallagher, and Drew Gulak in a six-man tag team kickoff match
It’s a slight revisit of the 6-man tag match from this week’s episode of 205 Live, and if that’s any indication, then this should be a fun bout, too. It’s just something to have the cruiserweights on the show, but I’m surprised favorites Cedric Alexander and Hideo Itami don’t have a role at all in this match. Anyway, the faces should go take this for the feel-good win.
› Winner: Kalisto, Lince Dorado, and Gran Metalik
Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin vs. The Usos (c) in a two out of three falls tag team match for the SmackDown Tag Team Championship
This has been a moderately entertaining feud to watch, but I feel like as much as they’re great, the Usos have run their course as champs for the time being. Gable and Benjamin are as good a pick as any to win the titles and reset the division, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they stick to the status quo.
› Winner: Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin (new SmackDown Tag Team Champions)
Sheamus and Cesaro vs. Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan (c) for the RAW Tag Team Championship
This match, however, needs the title change. Rollins and Jordan are an interesting pair mainly because of how this helps flesh out the son of Kurt Angle, but everyone knows this reign was really just to set up a feud between the two. Jordan’s becoming more insufferable each week on RAW, and deliberately so, as this is the only way his singles career will fly. Let the RAW tag team division reset itself by firmly establishing the Bar as its vanguards.
› Winner: Sheamus and Cesaro (new RAW Tag Team Champions)
Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens vs. AJ Styles (c) in a two-on-one handicap match for the WWE Championship
Yep, you’ve read that right—this match is a handicap match, and should Zayn and Owens win, they’ll be labeled co-champions. SmackDown is the show that’s crazy enough to make this happen (they are the brand that gave an unproven Jinder Mahal the WWE Championship, after all) and it would definitely be interesting, but in the end it’s up to who’s going to win the Royal Rumble. If it’s a SmackDown guy (and we’ll get to that later) then it’s their best bet to have Styles retain. Or they could go for a storyline that sees a fatal four-way for the title at WrestleMania, but that may be asking too much. Let’s go for the safe route here.
› Winner: AJ Styles
Kane vs. Braun Strowman vs. Brock Lesnar (c) in a triple threat match for the WWE Universal Championship
As much as it keeps making sense for Lesnar to finally lose the title to someone way more hardworking than he is, I’ve already come to expect the WWE to remain stubborn. No matter how good it sounds, Lesnar’s always going to win. Especially when the endgame is still Roman Reigns to beat him at WrestleMania.
› Winner: Brock Lesnar
Women’s Royal Rumble Match
The easy money here is Asuka, who’s being primed for this major run since her undefeated NXT days. One could also suggest that Ronda Rousey may show up despite diverting all rumors of her doing so, but that wouldn’t be much of a good match at WrestleMania. (It also wouldn’t make the WWE’s women’s division look any good.) The fear I’ve got is seeing Stephanie McMahon inserting herself in the match, because that’s a Stephanie McMahon thing to do. But I’ll stick with Asuka.
› Winner: Asuka
Men’s Royal Rumble Match
This circles back to the result of the WWE Championship match, but it also has something to do with the next few PPV events after the Royal Rumble, especially for RAW. RAW‘s got the Elimination Chamber, so they’re mandated to hold a chamber match; we don’t know if Lesnar will be defending his title inside the chamber and it’s really not looking likely. That means the chamber match may likely be for the #1 contendership to the Universal title—leaving a SmackDown guy to really win the Rumble.
Some sources are suggesting that Daniel Bryan could make an in-ring return to win the Rumble, simply because AJ Styles has Shane McMahon’s backing in the feud against Owens and Zayn. While that makes sense from a storyline standpoint, it doesn’t quite follow how they’re going to pull the rest of the story off if they don’t medically clear Bryan to wrestle—plus if he goes on to WrestleMania you would waste a spot that could’ve given the shine to either Owens or Zayn, or anyone else.
So who would that someone else be? The smarter money seems to be Shinsuke Nakamura, who otherwise hasn’t really been made to do anything that would suggest a decisive win. But it would be a good spot for him, a boost that he sorely needs in this rather lackluster SmackDown run (that’s no fault of his own). It would be a great moment for fans who need something to hold on to, and it wouldn’t hurt them at all.
› Winner: Shinsuke Nakamura
Let me know who your picks are for this year’s show, and let’s talk about it!
Want to catch this year’s Royal Rumble live with a bunch of other Filipino wrestling fans? You’re in luck—local wrestling blog Smark Henry is hosting another live Royal Rumble viewing party! It’ll be on Monday, January 29 at Skinny Mike’s Sports Bar in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig at 6 am. For only P300, you get a free drink and the chance to catch one of pro wrestling’s biggest events of the year live as it happens!
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