The road to WrestleMania begins with my favourite event of the year: the Royal Rumble. It is a time for us all to see a few surprise entries that we will all love at the time, but gripe about in a few months and will also tease the possible main event for the biggest event on WWE’s calendar. At face value, the card looks to be an interesting one, but the outcome of some of the matches are already in the books (I’ll explain on the way) so without further ado, let’s take a closer look at one of the biggest wrestling events of the year.
WWE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH – 2 OUT OF 3 FALLS MATCH
THE USOS (C) VS CHAD GABLE AND SHELTON BENJAMIN
The Usos are having possibly one of the best runs of their career after reluctantly turning heel. Their attitude both in and outside the ring has allowed their characters to flourish and they are a firm fan favourite on Smackdown. They have put on some truly incredible matches over the last few months and are, in my opinion, the strongest team the WWE has to offer.
Gable and Benjamin were really thrown together after Gable’s former went on to receive a push as a singles wrestler. Teaming him up with Benjamin, the WWE were hoping to repeat the success of putting Sheamus and Cesaro together, but it seems to have fallen flat. With the lack of real tag teams on the blue brand, the WWE are struggling to find match worthy opponents to the Usos (please no more New Day). Since Benjamin has returned to the WWE, he has really struggled to find a place on the roster and I do believe that he would have been a better singles wrestler, putting him in a position to challenge for the US title instead.
It would be interesting to see if the WWE will choose to try and claw back some of Gable’s lost momentum, however it seems unlikely. Expect the match to be hard fought though, with both sides not giving up without a fight.
WWE RAW TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
SETH ROLLINS AND JASON JORDAN (c) VS THE BAR
Seth Rollins has been at a loose end since his push stopped, with Reigns taking his place and an attempt to put The Shield back together falling flat on its face. Although he has had a reasonable amount of success this year, placing Ambrose and him together seemed to be the right thing to do for both wrestlers. Jason Jordan also had a push recently, with the WWE claiming he is Kurt Angle’s son, however, this really hasn’t worked and he remains as over with the fans as a radish. Removing him from one team and placing him in another seems like a poor booking decision from the WWE, however wrestling on the same side as Rollins is bound to help his career to a certain respect.
The Bar (or Sheamus and Cesaro) are possibly the success story of the RAW tag division. Placed together when the creative team seemed to run out of ideas what to do with them, it has helped both wrestlers really cement themselves as one of the best teams we have had in recent years. It boosted Cesaro from the mid card and gave Sheamus something to do other than shout FELLA all the time.
This match is a hard one to call. Rollins has done a fantastic job with the RAW tag belts and his partnership with both Ambrose and Jordan seems to be working. The Bar are still hugely popular with the WWE faithful, and it makes good business sense to have them hold the belts so that Rollins can take them back when Ambrose returns.
Prediction: The Bar
WWE CHAMPIONSHIP HANDICAP MATCH
AJ STYLES (c) VS KEVIN OWENS AND SAMI ZAYN
Of all the wrestlers on the roster, Styles has by far been the most impressive and the most consistent. Hell, the man even managed to put on a good match with Jinder Mahal!
Styles has done wonders for the WWE championship and continues to put on some truly outstanding matches and has really helped the belt retain its glory after the blundering experiment that WWE conducted by giving Mahal the belt.
Kevin Owens still remains one of my favourite wrestlers that the WWE have on their books today, however he is not having as good a run as he is did whilst he was on RAW. Although he made a fantastic Universal Champ and a decent US champ, he seems to find himself floundering in the mid card, which is just a waste of his talents.
Turning Sami Zayn heel was maybe one of the best decisions that have been made for the struggling former NXT superstar, with his push being non-existent. Although his initial rivalry with Owens was second to none, it seems that Zayn is always going to be in his friend’s shadow. The chance to go for the WWE title came from nowhere and although he deserves it, it could be argued that he has not done enough to earn a chance at the belt.
The logical choice to win this match would be AJ Styles, providing him with his chance at Wrestlemania and giving us the main event match we all want. However, I would also settle with Kevin Owens winning this match as he would also put on a fine display at Mania.
Prediction: AJ Styles
WWE UNIVERSAL CHAMPIONSHIP TRIPLE THREAT MATCH
BROCK LESNAR (c) VS BRAUN STROWMAN VS KANE
If you believe what is coming out of the rumour mill, Lesnar is due to face Reigns for the title at Mania, with the golden boy looking set to go over. If that is truly the case then this match will only serve to make Brock look stronger, Braun stronger still and turn Kane into a glorified jobber.
Lesnar remains one of my least favourite stars on the roster and he really does not need Paul Heyman at his side anymore to get him over. The WWE have really been pushing him as an all-out powerhouse, with the ability to trash anyone on the ring.
Braun Strowman has turned from the weakest member of the Wyatt Family to one of the best singles wrestlers on the roster. Throwing over an ambulance and laying waste to everyone in his path has really helped the big man’s career hit new heights, with 2018 looking to be his best year yet. Although he has not held the lesser belt, he has done more than enough to take home the gold and I genuinely believe that he has what it takes to become one of the best Universal Champions since the belt was created.
Kane has had a good run with the WWE and it is about time he held up his hands and walked away. I have fond memories of Kane, but he has been placed in this match because the WWE like the idea of three big men throwing each other around. Expect Kane to take the pinfall here, whilst making the other two look good in the process. I really want to call this one differently in the dire hope that the WWE may throw us a curveball and change their plans at the last minute. But let’s be honest, Reigns vs Lesnar is going to happen…
THE WOMEN’S ROYAL RUMBLE
Women’s wrestling has come a long way, with their first Royal Rumble being the proof of that. However, the women’s roster is looking a bit thin at the moment, so we can expect a decent, yet short rumble.
We can expect to see Lita and Trish Stratus making a return and if you believe the rumours then Ronda Rousey will also make an appearance, setting her up nicely for her inevitable match at Wrestlemania. It would also be nice to see the return of Becky Lynch to her previous stature and also a call up of a few NXT stars as they begin to bulk the roster out.
But who can we expect to be crowned victorious?
Nia Jax has been in the news a lot recently so all fingers are pointing at her, however, we shouldn’t rule out Asuka.
Asuka has been built up by the WWE to be unstoppable, and if she loses the rumble, then all of that will be for nothing. It’s a tough call.
THE MEN’S ROYAL RUMBLE MATCH
When you are looking at a potential winner for the rumble, you must also think about who would be able to go ahead and put on a huge match at Mania. In recent years, that doesn’t seem to matter anymore, but there are so many potential winners this year that it is almost impossible to call.
John Cena has been confirmed as an entry and so must be considered as a possible winner. Giving him one last match at Mania would set up his road to retirement nicely and AJ Styles and Cena have arguably put on the best match of last year, and I would love to see this match headline Mania.
Baron Corbin is also a likely candidate and should he win the event, then it makes sense as to why he has dropped the US belt and also had an abysmal showing as Mr Money in the Bank. Having him win the rumble makes sense, however I think it would be best to consider him as a wild card.
My choice is Shinsuke Nakamura. If anyone can really take the prestige needed at Mania this year it would be Nakamura, and he would also put on a stupidly good match with Styles. His push has been a long time coming and a win at the rumble would be the best way to start it.
We can also expect to see Cass make a comeback as well as some wrestlers from our past. One wrestler I definitely want to see make an in-ring return is Jeff Hardy. Now would be the perfect time to bring him back after his injury, providing the roster with some much needed talent.
Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura
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