The Road to WrestleMania gets going this Sunday with perhaps the most open Royal Rumble in some time!
We’ve got a two-hour pre-show (boo!), which will include at least three matches before we get to a championship-laden main show.
As of writing, there’s been 22 names announced: Goldberg, Brock Lesnar, Big E, Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods, Chris Jericho, Braun Strowman, Baron Corbin, The Undertaker, Dean Ambrose, The Miz, Dolph Ziggler, Cesaro, Sheamus, Bray Wyatt, Randy Orton, Luke Harper, Big Show, Sami Zayn, Big Cass, Rusev and Mojo Rawley.
With eight names left open, amid rumours of guys from the WWE UK tournament to be thrown in, as well as the possibility of names from NXT and 205 Live being added, but the question remains: who wins? It’s unlikely that (say) a Tyler Bate or a Tye Dillinger will come in as a surprise and win… nor is it likely that Kenny Omega will be a surprise, given his public statement to Dave Meltzer this week.
So who from the announced 22 has a shot? Goldberg and Brock Lesnar will likely cancel each other out, as their expected WrestleMania match does not need a title belt to be thrown into the mix. The bookmakers seem to be favouring Randy Orton and the Undertaker, whilst Braun Strowman and a surprise in Samoa Joe are also up there. At the time of writing, Orton is a 5/4 favourite via Sky Bet, so I’m going to go with the bookies – bearing in mind that the WWE championship from SmackDown is on the line in the Elimination Chamber next month. Prediction: Randy Orton
WWE Universal Championship: Kevin Owens (c) vs. Roman Reigns
This is under no-DQ rules, with Chris Jericho being held over the ring in a shark cage for the match – so somebody saw the last NXT Takeover!
The no-DQ rule comes in after Jericho intentionally got Owens disqualified at Roadblock last month, ending the “are they friends or have they really fallen out?” storyline… but this is a stipulation that I feel may play into Owens’ favour. Remember at NXT, we had Paul Ellering drop a chain down to the ring (a chain that would end up flying into the crowd courtesy of a botched punch!), and I reckon we’ll see something similar repeating here.
Reigns did of course drop the US title to Jericho not too recently, but I’m not expecting this being a cue for him to pick up a new title… so I’m going with Owens to retain going into WrestleMania. Prediction: Kevin Owens
WWE Championship: AJ Styles (c) vs. John Cena
This time last year, AJ was debuting in the Royal Rumble… and what a year he’s had! John Cena’s been a big part of his “rookie” year in WWE, and on his first appearance in a long time on SmackDown, he made a challenge for the WWE title. Yep, a lot of this is based on the feud from last year, but these two have had good matches, and I have no reason to believe this’ll be any different. Given that the Elimination Chamber follows next month, this result doesn’t automatically mean “they’re going to WrestleMania” – so I’m going to call a title change here. Prediction: John Cena
WWE Raw Women’s Championship: Charlotte (c) vs. Bayley
Now we’ve finally gotten past Charlotte and Sasha, we’ve moved onto a feud with Bayley that so far has felt underwhelming. On house shows, Bayley’s been on the winning side a lot – albeit in tag team matches against Charlotte, but let’s face it. Charlotte’s still got the unbeaten-on-PPV record, and if it’s going to go, it’ll be at a WrestleMania, not Royal Rumble. Expect a screwy finish, with just cause for a rematch or two down the line… Prediction: Charlotte.
WWE Cruiserweight Championship: Rich Swann (c) vs. Neville
Neville’s addition to the cruiserweight division has been welcome – yet chided at the same time, as some seem to think that this is WWE “meddling” with the division by adding a midcarder who is in the mould of what WWE would class as a cruiserweight in the past. Neville has been unbeaten on TV since his return on 205 Live, but I have a feeling this may be too soon for him to win the title – given how much the belt has swapped around in its short lifespan. I’m going to call for Neville to end the evening strong, but not with the belt. Prediction: Rich Swann via DQ
WWE Raw Tag Team Championships: Sheamus & Cesaro (c) vs. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson
This has been shifted to the pre-show, and will have two referees thanks to a “Dusty finish” on a recent episode of Raw. It’ll be a decent enough match, but WWE don’t tend to do title changes on pre-shows – and the two referees seems to indicate there’ll be a screwy finish. For the hell of it, I’m going to call this a draw, with a definitive rematch down the road. Prediction: Draw.
Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax
From the main event of Hell in a Cell, to the dark match of the Royal Rumble. Quite the headscratcher… the story going in has seen Nia repeatedly beat on and attack Sasha to cause and extend an injury, and I can’t see anything different happen here. Sasha – in storyline – is still somewhat injured, so this should be an easy win for the monster Jax. Prediction: Nia Jax
Becky Lynch, Nikki Bella & Naomi vs. Alexa Bliss, Mickie James & Natalya
A seemingly random tag match, but all of these do have feuds that are somewhat linked. Becky Lynch has the obvious beef with Alexa and Mickie after the two worked to ensure that Lynch couldn’t regain the women’s title a few weeks back… Naomi’s in the mix thanks to Alexa’s refusing to wrestle her on SmackDown this week, whilst Nikki and Natalya’s feud rumbles on. This is the equivalent of a New Japan undercard tag match that mixes multiple feuds together, and to be honest, it doesn’t really matter who wins. I’m picking the babyfaces… Prediction: Becky Lynch, Nikki Bella & Naomi.
- Reproduced from BackBodyDrop.com
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ian Hamilton has been a wrestling fan since 1992, and when he’s not watching WWE, New Japan or his latest wrestling love, PROGRESS, he’s usually suffering through Sunderland AFC and the New York Jets. He’s got a couple of books out on Amazon – “Wrestling’s Sinking Ship” and “Gone Too Soon”, and can be reached via his website, BackBodyDrop.com, or on Twitter @theianhamilton