Let’s get ready to (Royal) Rumble: A look at the WWE’s second biggest event of the year
WrestleMania season is upon us, and all the biggest players are stepping up their game. The Rock has come back, CM Punk has held onto the belt for over 400 days now, and John Cena has declared (for the umpteenth time) that his time is now.
But the first stop on the road to WrestleMania is the Royal Rumble, an event highlighted by its 30-man over-the-top-rope battle royal. The prize? A main event slot in the “Grand Daddy of ‘em All.” Sit back, relax, and enjoy two writers’ predictions of the Royal Rumble card, and tune in next week for a retrospective review of our experience at the Rumble. Yes, we’re going, and no Wade, we will not make a Couch Side sign.
United States Championship: Antonio Cesaro (c) vs. The Miz
• Matt: The Miz once again finds himself in pursuit of the U.S. Title, but this time, he faces what is perhaps his toughest test to date in the form of Antonio Cesaro. Ever since becoming a good guy, The Miz has floundered. That all changed on the 20th anniversary of Monday Night RAW, when he teamed up with WWE Hall of Famer Ric Flair to lay the verbal (and physical) smackdown on Cesaro. Not only that, but Flair bestowed on Miz the figure-four-leg-lock, a move he has yet to fully master. Still, an endorsement from Flair and a new finisher may have people thinking Miz has turned a corner, but I feel the rut will live on for the “Awesome One.” Cesaro is just too over right now as a bad guy (and an excellent worker to boot) to lose his belt. While I don’t expect his title reign to last much longer, I don’t think that loss will come at the hands of the Miz.
Winner: Antonio Cesaro
• Brett: If you remember our previous post on the WWE, you will remember that I predicted that Antonio Cesaro will be the next big star that the company produces. His momentum has slowed down a bit since then, but he still carries that US Championship with dignity, power, and sophistication. Nobody that has challenged him for the belt, which he has held since SummerSlam, has been able to dethrone him and his claim saying that “no American can beat him” seems to have a solid base. That streak will live on this Sunday as I believe The Miz will fall victim to the “Swiss Sensation.” This was a match that was randomly thrown together and is based off a segment involving the two and WWE Hall of Famer and wrestling legend Ric Flair on Monday Night Raw’s 20th Anniversary show a few weeks ago. I guess that WWE just needed to fill something for part of their free pre-show. I fully expect Cesaro to reign supreme once more in another title defense, and do it with ease.
Winner: Antonio Cesaro
WWE Tag Team Titles: Team Hell No (c) vs. Team Rhodes Scholars
• Matt: While we declared Team Hell No the tag team of 2012, it’s hard to argue that Rhodes Scholars weren’t a close second prior to Cody Rhodes’ injury. Now back, healthy, and finally getting that tag team title shot, it’s easy to see how all the momentum might firmly be in the corner of Rhodes and Damien Sandow. But let’s not forget that Team Hell No is comprised of two former champions in the form of Kane and Daniel Bryan. Let’s also not forget that their weekly segments are some of the funniest, most-talked about when it comes to leaving a lasting impression. Some might argue that their shtick is getting old, but as long as they have each other, I will embrace weekly hugging sessions, classic one-liners, and a continued presence at the top of the WWE Tag Team Championship picture.
Winner: Team Hell No
• Brett: Let’s get something straight. I love what Kane and Daniel Bryan have done these past few months as a tag team as Team Hell No. Thrown together as a dysfunctional team after an awkward love triangle angle, they have been arguably the most entertaining part of RAW and SmackDown, both inside and outside the ring. However, I feel that that tandem and awesomeness will be coming to an end after the two “graduated” from anger management this past Monday on RAW, meaning that there is no real story to hold them together. On the other hand, Team Rhodes Scholars (Damien Sandow and Cody Rhodes) have been worthy adversaries to Team Hell No and are waiting in the wings, primed to take the belts for their own and start their title reign. Everything is coming together for Rhodes Scholars at the right moment and the Rumble will only be the start of their glorious journey. Hallelujah!
Winner: Team Rhodes Scholars
World Heavyweight Championship: Alberto Del Rio (c) vs. The Big Show: Last Man Standing Match
• Matt: A few weeks ago, the people who actually turned into SmackDown were treated to a World Heavyweight Championship title change for the first time in forever. Del Rio, who has come out of nowhere to be one of the company’s top good guys overnight, pummeled Show in a Last Man Standing Match, literally pushing the announce table onto the giant to prevent him from rising before the 10-count. Now at the Rumble, Del Rio must retain his title against an angry Big Show in another Last Man Standing Match. Some might argue that lightning doesn’t strike twice, but I feel Del Rio’s momentum has been red hot ever since he turned face (helped in large part by his ring announcer, Ricardo Rodriguez). I don’t see him slowing down at the Rumble, especially since the Big Show proved to be a plain champion; one who didn’t bring in nearly the viewers as Del Rio has. The man could easily be the modern day Eddie Guerrero with his growing connection to the Latino community, and if the WWE is smart, they’ll ride that hot streak.
Winner: Alberto Del Rio
• Brett: A few weeks ago, Del Rio was as bland as you could be. His heel gimmick of playing a “Mexican Aristocrat” (basically a Hispanic version of JBL) was dead in the water after starting off so hot, and fans were sick of it. Apparently, the WWE took notice and redefined his persona, turning him face and positioning him to be the next great Latino presence for the company. He won the World Heavyweight Championship in a shocker on the January 11 edition of SmackDown in a Last Man Standing match against Big Show, and will now defend the belt in the same type of match this Sunday against Big Show. Del Rio has only held the title for around two weeks, so it seems unlikely it will be taken off him now, especially given the fact that he is now a fantastic face and is more over than he ever has been before with the fans. What also bodes well for Del Rio is that he will be defending the title in Phoenix, a city with a heavy Latin demographic. I love this new side of the champ and look forward to seeing him retain the title live. SI! SI! SI!
Winner: Alberto Del Rio
(Presumed) WWE Divas Championship: Kaitlyn (c) vs. TBD:
(Side Note. This match hasn’t been announced, but we’re expecting it to happen)
• Matt: Kaitlyn, just because she barely won the title a few weeks back, and as champ, still has a ways to work before she finally gets over. Good start, though.
• Brett: Kaitlyn, because she ruffles my jimmies.
WWE Championship Match: CM Punk (c) vs. The Rock
• Matt: FINALLY! CM PUNK MIGHT GAIN SOME CREDIBILITY AS CHAMPION. Come Sunday, Punk will have held the belt for 434 days, and for that, the man deserves respect. He is the longest reigning WWE Champion in the past 25 years, and has managed to remain on top despite a heel turn and increasingly sketchy victories. Despite turning, he remains as over as ever, but still faces arguably his stiffest challenge to date in the form of the “People’s Champion.” While I do expect The Rock to win the belt before his next inevitable departure, I don’t think it comes Sunday in Phoenix. To really sell this feud, Punk needs to be put over and do something John Cena could never do: he needs to beat The Rock. As the best wrestler in the world, Punk has an advantage. By wrestling full-time this past year, Punk can grind this match out, making Rocky’s ring rust a factor. Since defeating John Cena at last year’s WrestleMania, The Rock has filmed countless movies and continued defining his status as a Hollywood icon. But he hasn’t wrestled a man like CM Punk. Like Punk says, fighting him will be like boxing with God.
Winner: CM Punk
• Brett: FINALLY! THE ROCK…HAS COME BACK…TO THE TITLE PICTURE! After making an explosive return to the WWE in early 2011 and defeating John Cena in the main event of WrestleMania 28 last year, The Rock is now ready to square off with CM Punk for the WWE Championship, a title he vowed to reclaim the night after ‘Mania last year. Now, that proclamation appears to be coming true as he gets set for Sunday’s highly anticipated match with Punk in a showdown that fans have been salivating over a for a while now. Make no mistake about it, CM Punk is a legit main-event superstar and how could you say he is not? He will have held the title for 434 days (including this Sunday) and it’s hard to remember the days when he wasn’t carrying the title. Now, he has an opportunity to cement himself as one of the best ever and would do that with a victory over The Great One. The build-up for this title match has been fantastic, with both guys having a go at each other on the microphones and even having brawls around arenas. With The Rock making appearances on seemingly every show from here on out until WrestleMania, the landscape has changed and the main change that will happen will be this Sunday, when Rocky beats the longest-reigning champion of the modern era in what I think will be a great match with lots of twists and turns, ultimately culminating in Dwayne Johnson standing on the second rope in his signature pose, WWE Championship in his hand.
Winner: The Rock
Royal Rumble Match: Winner gets a title shot at WrestleMania
• Matt: Wade Barrett and Dolph Ziggler
• Brett: Dolph Ziggler and Sheamus
• Matt: Ryback and Sheamus
• Brett: Randy Orton, Ryback, and loser of CM Punk/The Rock (if the WWE is smart)
• Matt: 2012 marked an entire calendar year in which John Cena did not win the WWE or World Heavyweight Championships. While it could be considered a successful year in terms of turning CM Punk into a legitimate superstar, the former “Doctor of Thugonomics” could not be happy with how the past few months have went down. He’ll have a chance to rectify these losses with a big win in the Royal Rumble, a match Cena himself won in 2008. Though he faces a tough cast of characters, including Randy Orton, Sheamus, and Ryback, I can’t imagine 2013 being the year of Cena, as he has so eloquently proclaimed, without a Rumble victory. He’s done it before, and he can surely do it again, setting up a potential rematch with The Rock come WrestleMania 29, this time, for the WWE Championship.
Winner: John Cena
• Brett: I feel dirty saying this, but John Cena will win the Rumble match. If the rumors and speculation are true in regards to plans for the future, then I see no other logical way to not have Cena win the match and go on to the next few PPVs. It is inevitable that the WWE Championship will once again be around his waist and getting him his second Rumble win in five years is probably the best way to do it. He will be tested in this match that has some fairly big names in it but winning will only add to his “Superman” persona, leading to greener pastures for the face of the WWE.
Winner: John Cena