This Sunday is the 30th annual Royal Rumble. And it may be the most intriguing Royal Rumble in recent memory. There is no clear cut winner this year. Not only that, there is another potential match of the year candidate on the card with Styles/Cena.
The show is 6 hours if you include the preshow. But there are only 5 matches on the four hour main card. I expect some kind of segment involving Seth Rollins and a returning Triple H. And they better make Rollins look strong as hell in that segment because he is failing as a face. Maybe we get a Kurt Angle appearance as well.
Now on to the preview!
Sasha Banks vs Nia Jax
JC: It seems like the WWE is trying to build Nia Jax up as a monster heel in the women’s division. Sorry, but I just can’t get behind it. Unlike BRAUN, I just don’t buy Nia yet as a real threat. I have a feeling that the WWE is going to try and get Nia over here again. Sasha will play the underdog role with her injured knee and will try to gut out a win, but Nia goes over in the end. Nia probably does some extra damage to Sasha’s knee at the end as well.
WINNER: Nia Jax
Cam: Nia Jax has come a country mile since her call up to the main roster improving, slightly, in the ring. But her believability as a heel has grown immensely. But with all that said this is a kick off show where the baby faces tend to win and Sasha is still the boss despite her booking.
Winner: Sasha Banks
Naomi, Nikki Bella and Becky Lynch vs Alexa Bliss, Natalya and Mickie James
JC: Smackdown does a great job of making their women’s division seem diverse. They have as many women as RAW’s does, but everything about it seems fresh. And they have actually branched off into new feuds. We now have Alexa feuding with Naomi as Becky Lynch made a natural transition into a feud with Mickie James. And the Nikki/Natalya feud has me caring more about Natalya then I ever have. Originally, I thought the heels needed the win here. But I think Alexa and Mickie bail on Natalya when things get tough, allowing Nikki to pin Natalya and give her team the win.
WINNERS: Naomi, Nikki Bella and Becky Lynch
Cam: Mickie James coming to the Smackdown Live roster made their brand the top dogs in the WWE. I for one can not wait until we get James and Alexa Bliss one on one heading into Wrestlemania.
Winners: Alexa Bliss, Mickie James and Natalya
RAW Tag Team Championship: Cesaro and Sheamus (c) vs Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson
JC: There are going to be two referees for this match after what happened a couple weeks ago on RAW. But forget that for a second. I think this match is make or break for the Club. Gallows and Anderson have not been treated as a big deal since AJ Styles left for Smackdown. Cesaro and Sheamus winning the Tag Titles accomplished what it needed to in getting both men over again. And they will also both be in the Rumble match later that night, where you can tease tension between both men after losing. If Gallows and Anderson don’t win here, I don’t see how they can recover from another loss.
WINNERS: Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson
Cam: The WWE sure did fool me when they almost put the tag team titles on the New Japan legends a few weeks ago on Raw. Cesaro and Sheamus have really made the best out of becoming a tag team, playing well off of each other’s opposite gimmicks. I love a baby face chasing down titles so let the Bullet Club guys get a win here. (Maybe Finn helps them and jump starts the Balor Club)
Winners: Gallows & Anderson
Cruiserweight Championship: Rich Swann (c) vs Neville
JC: This is the coronation of Neville as the top dog in the Cruiserweight Division. I like Rich Swann and think he has great charisma. But similar to T.J. Perkins, he just hasn’t connected with the fans. Of course you could say that about everyone in the division outside of Neville and maybe Jack Gallagher. If the WWE doesn’t hold these two back we could get a fun match here. But my hopes aren’t high. I’m picking Neville to win here though. And that gives the WWE two months to build up someone to face Neville at Wrestlemania. That is, of course, if the division is still around at that point.
Cam: Neville needs to win here for more than just one reason. A Neville win not only helps extend the feud between him and Rich Swann but may bring some ‘big time’ light to a belt that hasn’t been had the brightest non purple light shed on it since the birth of 205 Live.
RAW Women’s Championship: Charlotte (c) vs Bayley
JC: Charlotte is holding the Title until Wrestlemania. I’m pretty confident in saying that. Charlotte gets ragged on but I think she is one of the better overall heels the WWE has, men or women. She gets heat. And that is very tough to do in today’s WWE. Charlotte is a natural heel, while Bayley is the natural underdog face. Bayley’s time is coming, but it isn’t here yet. Similar to NXT, I think the Bayley story will be played out all the way to Wrestlemania. Dana Brooke tries to get back in the good graces of Charlotte and causes a distraction, allowing Charlotte to pick up the win.
Cam: Charlotte is the queen of pay per views. She just doesn’t lose wrestling on the WWE Network. Bayley is a fan favorite but still has some growing to do in my opinion to catch up to Charlotte. Charlotte each and every week continues to be one of the bright spots on a very long Raw show.
WWE Universal Championship: Kevin Owens (c) vs Roman Reigns (Chris Jericho Locked In A Shark Cage Above The Ring)
JC: Well at least Roman Reigns isn’t in the Royal Rumble this year! I just have no intrigue in this match at all. If recent rumors of the Wrestlemania card are true, you would think Roman Reigns isn’t winning the Title. But is Kevin Owens going into Wrestlemania as Champ? That would mean that Owens/Jericho would be for the Universal Title. And it really should be. Those two try every week to make RAW as entertaining as possible. And Jericho’s reinvention of himself again has been great. As for Reigns, I think his rumored Wrestlemania program demands a full heel turn, so him winning here won’t work. Jericho drops the list to Owens in the ring, and Owens uses it to pick up the win.
WINNER: Kevin Owens
Cam: The past two Wrestlemania seasons, Roman Reigns has been in the top story lines. He lost at Wrestlemania 31 after Seth Rollins cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase but rebounded with a win over Triple H in possibly the most boring Wrestlemania main ever this past year. The smart money may be on Reigns heading into Mania as champion but something deep down inside me says Kevin Owens will still be the man heading into a Wrestlemania show down with his best friend, Chris Jericho.
Winner: Kevin Owens
WWE Championship: AJ Styles (c) vs John Cena
JC: If the WWE is looking for a match to come close to the level of Okada/Omega, this is their chance. I fully expect this to take up one hour of the show itself. I expect the match to be anywhere from 30-40 minutes. When you include the pre-match video package, entrance and post match stuff, you can easily get an hour here. I had no problem with Cena’s promo on Smackdown. I just wish they would have let AJ have his rebuttal on TV rather than on Talking Smack. They’ve really downplayed Cena going for Ric Flair’s record tying 16th World Title win, which makes me think Cena won’t be around the Title after this. But does the WWE put Styles over Cena clean twice? I think Styles wins here, and I think it is clean. Cena talked a big game on Smackdown, but he doesn’t back it up.
WINNER: AJ Styles
Cam: AJ Styles is the face that runs Smackdown Live but ‘big match’ John Cena is hunting down his 16th WWE Title reign. Styles has been booked phenomenally since making his debut one year ago. With all that said its Wrestlemania season and John Cena hasn’t had a big match at the biggest show of the year since he wrestled The Rock, twice. I see Cena winning here and heading into Mania as a world champion one last time.
Winner: John Cena
The Royal Rumble Match
JC: Look at BRAUN in that photo. He just exudes star power. Okay, seriously, I really like this year’s Royal Rumble. Why? Because this is the most unpredictable the Rumble has been in quite some time. You could make a case for over half the guys in the match winning. Some of them might be stretches, but they wouldn’t necessarily be that far fetched either. I don’t think Goldberg or Brock Lesnar are winning. And if one of them does, it would signal that their match would be for the Universal Title. And it absolutely shouldn’t.
This comes down to four people for me: Randy Orton, BRAUN, Samoa Joe or Finn Balor. And I’m picking BRAUN. He should be fighting for the Universal Title at Wrestlemania. He’s grown past the Andre the Giant Battle Royal. I think Joe debuts but doesn’t win. Orton/Bray can be set up on Smackdown in the coming weeks. A win for BRAUN here would solidify him as a top guy going forward.
WINNER: BRAUN Strowman
Cam: This may be the most intriguing Royal Rumble match in my memory. I could easily make a case for four or five guys winning without even bringing up a possible appearance from Finn Balor, a win from a Smackdown Superstar like Randy Orton or Bray Wyatt or that top New Japan guy everyone hopes will debut. This may be the most intriguing Rumble since The Rock ended CM Punk’s 434 day region as WWE Champion, a Rumble match winner isn’t clear and that should make for a great show. Ya know, it gets spoiled tomorrow.
Winner: The Undertaker
Be sure to follow us on Twitter, @HTCWrestling this weekend as we tweet about the Royal Rumble and NXT Takeover!
Justin C @JCWonka