It’s very difficult to have a good Royal Rumble pay-per-view on paper. The most exciting thing about the shows is always the Rumble match itself and it’s impossible to predict how good they’re going to be until they happen. For the most part Royal Rumble matches rely less on talented workers and more on well-planned booking and precise timing. The promotion’s booking has been consistently good over the last several months so I’m hoping they have a clear idea for their WrestleMania line-up and how to kick off the build to it this Sunday.
In addition to the titular match there are three other matches on the show: two world title bouts and a singles matches between Kane and John Cena. A Divas’ championship match being added wouldn’t surprise me. It’s always good to get a women’s match on the Rumble card as it adds some variety allows the division (such as it is) to get some exposure on the second biggest show of the year.
The Cena and Kane story has only been for about a month and I’m already sick of it. Any feud which involves Zack Ryder frantically trying to change a tyre while Eve Torres screams at him is failing on some level. Why didn’t they just run away instead of hanging around waiting for Kane to find them? Are they that stupid?
In fairness the idea of Kane’s beating (which he inflicted to gain the Cena psychological advantage over Cena because he and ‘Long Island Iced Z’ are mates) costing Ryder the United States championship was a good one. It’s also got to be said that Kane has been great at doing creepy promos and maniacal laughter. He always is. Cena’s pulled his weight too: he was very believable when jobbing out Jack Swagger on the January 16th RAW and his trademark Sad Puppy expression has actually come in useful for showing that Kane’s words are having an effect on him.
I’m still not expecting much from their match though. It could either be a standard ten minute Cena romp or it could be Cena as he was on the January 16th RAW, giving Kane a beating in a short encounter. I’d prefer the latter. Kane’s character is strong enough to survive a quick job to an established name and it would spare us a protracted match between the two. It would also help Cena look dominant going into the final two months of his feud with The Rock.
However they book it I’m expecting a Cena victory.
The WWE championship match between champion CM Punk and challenger Dolph Ziggler should be an early match of the year contender. Both guys are incredible wrestlers and the match is likely to be given enough time to allow them to put together something special. Their match on the December 26th RAW was great. It could have been even better with more time.
The booking of the feud has been good too. I tend to prefer two wrestlers talking themselves and the match up for a few weeks before coming to blows on the final show before the pay-per-view, which is (so far) what we’ve had from both champ and challenger. I’m writing this before the pre-Rumble RAW and I’m expecting some sort of physical altercation between Ziggler and Punk to provide that final twist before the show.
The fly in the ointment is John Laurinaitis. That he’s the special guest referee means that he’s going to get involved in the match at some point. That’s the rule of guest referees. I would imagine ‘The Voice of the Voiceless’ will overcome whatever nonsense Laurinatis has in store but it’s likely to detract from the pace of the match and alter the focus. Instead of the bout being about Ziggler making a name for himself and trying to take the WWE title it will be about Laurinaitis trying to take the belt from Punk and put it on Ziggler. There’s a difference there, namely that the latter doesn’t make ‘The Show Off’ look anywhere near as strong as the former.
Prediction: this will be the best singles match of the night and a highlight of WWE’s in-ring product for 2012 (despite the involvement of Johnny Ace). Also, Punk will retain and both will be involved in an Elimination Chamber match next month.
SmackDown’s World Heavyweight champion Daniel Bryan will defend his title in a triple threat match against the Big Show and Mark Henry. Bryan has been a latecomer to this feud (which has, astonishingly, been going since last July) and injected some much needed variety into it. Show is a likeable personality and Henry is over as a monster heel but there are only so many times they can be booked against each other without it becoming boring. Bryan has made this feud so much better since being added to it and has been great in the role of the arrogant heel (which I saw coming last month).
There still seems to be a medical issue with Mark Henry (he’s been a regular on TV but hasn’t actually wrestled in weeks) and Big Show is permanently knackered so I can’t see either of them taking the gold back from ‘D-Bry’. I’d like to see the former ROH stalwart keep the belt until WrestleMania. I think he’ll definitely have it coming out of the Royal Rumble but may wind up losing it before ‘Mania.
Can Santino make it to the Final Two in back-to-back Rumbles? My guess is "no"...
Finally there’s the Rumble match itself. The booking of the last couple of Rumbles has been very good and I imagine that’s a trend that will continue this year. There are a few things I’m fairly confident we’ll see: comebacks for hometown hero Randy Orton and ‘Captain Charisma’ Christian; Wade Barrett eliminated by ‘The Viper’; Dolph Ziggler and Mick Foley continuing work for a singles match at WrestleMania; a dominant performance from ‘The Funkasaurus’ Brodus Clay; and a lengthy showing for either Cody Rhodes or Dolph Ziggler (or both).
On the Maybe This Will Happen list are a Skip Sheffield return (perhaps under the ring name of Ryback) and a dominant performance from Kane. The return of Sheffield may be held off until a later date so that the return of ‘The Apex Predator’ and ‘The Instant Classic’ are more meaningful (assuming they happen), but if it does go ahead I imagine we’ll see him eliminate at least a couple of guys before getting chucked out by a main eventer. Kane’s gimmick of doing well in Rumble matches is one of my favourite touches to any character in wrestling. There have been dozens of monsters in the Rumble over the years but only Kane has been booked to look so good for so many years. A great example is the 2001 Rumble match.
I have a feeling either Cody Rhodes or Dolph Ziggler will enter the Rumble at number one. ‘The Heel’ was my original prediction for the number one entrant but I now think that’s slightly less likely as he’s got a WWE title match at the show. It could still happen though, especially when you remember Ziggler’s penchant of wrestling twice on pay-per-views that was started a few months ago. I’d enjoy seeing him lose the WWE title match and immediately have to go into the Royal Rumble. It would be a nice way of highlighting him as a performer and would give him something to brag about.
As I say, I now think that’s less likely and instead have a feeling Cody ‘White Belt’ Rhodes is going to enter at number one instead. At the other end of things are the Final Four. That’s almost impossible to predict but I’ll have a stab and go with Sheamus, Miz, Chris Jericho, and Randy Orton.
As for a winner I’m torn between Chris Jericho and Randy Orton. It’s Orton’s hometown but Jericho is a few years older and this strikes me as the last time he’ll be considered a genuine potential winner. He’s getting a significant push at the moment and seems to be in line for a singles match with Punk at WrestleMania XXVIII. But on the other hand it’s Orton’s hometown, he’ll be making a comeback from an injury (and WWE has been keen to have returning guys win the Rumble a couple of times in the last several years), and he’d make a great opponent for current World champion Daniel Bryan at ‘The Grandaddy of ‘em All’.
I’d love to see them as the final two, because there would be a lot of genuine suspense and I imagine the crowd would be more split than you may expect. Ultimately I’m going to go with Chris Jericho as my prediction. I think WWE will convince themselves they can always have ‘The Viper’ win in a later year. I also think Punk v Jericho can sustain a two month build-up, while Bryan v Orton would be better served by hinting at something lightly for a month before beginning a feud between the two officially at or around Elimination Chamber.
I also want to see Jericho do a ridiculous celebration on RAW the night after the show without saying a word. He could pull that off nicely.
I’d like to end by pointing something out that this won’t be the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Rumble as WWE’s marketing team would have you believe. It’s the twenty-fifth instalment of the show, making it the twenty-fourth anniversary. Will it rank among the best Rumble matches of all time? It’ll certainly make the top twenty-five, but it’s got some stiff competition for the “best Royal Rumble ever” spot.