Royal Rumble Preview & Predictions, 2011

Royal Rumble 2011, Sunday January 29, from the TD Garden, Boston, MA

The Royal Rumble is one of my very favourite events of the year, trumped only by Wrestlemania, and no matter what people say, the result is really never as predictable as some IWC fans might suggest. As of now, there are only 3 matches booked apart from the Rumble itself, so there will be at least 1, and possibly 2, further matches announced on the night, either a US title match for Ted DiBiase, or more probably, a tag team title shot for New Nexus members Husky Harris and Michael McGillicutty, and even possibly with Gabriel and Slater from the Corre.

1) WWE Tag Team Championship Match: Santino Marella & Vladimir Kozlov (c) vs Husky Harris & Michael McGillicutty (Nexus) (vs Justin Gabriel & Heath Slater (Corre)?)
Cole practically spoiled this match taking place when he introduced the Nexus pair as going in to a title match on RAW when in fact it wasn’t, so i’m quite confident this will appear on Sunday. I think however, that is a Nexus pair take part, perhaps a pair from the Corre should also compete given the tension between the two groups, and the fact that Slater and Gabriel have already been tag champions. Unfortunately for me, whether or not Corre appear probably affects my prediction. If it’s just Nexus, I wouldn’t see the point in putting them in this match instead of the Usos (who could easily could have been booked) unless they were going to pick up the titles, so I would pick them. If Corre are involved however, I imagine the story would be or Nexus and Corre being too pre-occupied with each other and take each other out, allowing Santino and Vlad to retain. Of course, though I wouldn’t like to see it at this point, there is also the possibility that Corre could interefere in the match to cost Nexus the titles.

Winners: Nexus (if Corre are not involved)/Santino Marella & Vladimir Kozlov (if Corre not involved).

2) 2-on-1 Handicap Divas Championship Match: Natalya (c) vs LayCool (Layla & Michelle McCool)
I have no idea why WWE have stopped the programme between Natalya and Melina. It makes to show a lack of ambition, as it seemed to be a feud with some genuine tension behind it. The only justification I can think of is that the feud isn’t, indeed, over. Here’s what could happen if that is the case: Melina, angry at not beating Nattie at her first attempt, continues her vendetta by costing her the title against LayCool, just as she is about to overcome the pair again. The upside of this is that it keeps a potentially fiery feud  while giving the Smackdown divas something meaningful to wrestle for; the downside is that it would cut Nattie’s reign pretty short (shorter than she deserves). I think, however, it would be worth it – it wont reflect badly on Nattie, and will be good for the divas division. So maybe it’s wishful thinking for this particular development, but …

Winner(s): LayCool

3) World Heavyweight Championship Match: Edge (c) vs Dolph Ziggler
This is perhaps the most predictable match on the card. Having only won the title a month ago, I can’t see Edge dropping it so soon, and eventhough Ziggler’s on a big push, I think it would be too much of a rush to that level for him; though he seems destined to one day be a world champion one day, I see him as a MITB winner or having to wait until after Wrestlemania. This is even given that the Spear was banned on Smackdown. I think that this, if anything, makes Edge even more of a favourite as these sort of stipulations that put (especially faces) at a huge disagvantage, tends to be something of a red-herring, making the victory seem all the more impressive. It will make for a better match in terms of storytelling, but I think it will make for an even more gritty win for Edge. Saying that, Ziggler’s been putting on some excellent matches of late, and he will know that this is the biggest match of his career, so I expect that, along with Edge’s big match experience, to produce a big performance from them both.

Winner: Edge

4) WWE Championship Match: The Miz (c) vs Randy Orton
This match is harder to judge. It seems to me that the arm-chair fans are convinced that Orton will be taking back his title, and that could be the case, but i’m less sure. Obviously at this point, this result could set the stage for the RAW main event at Wrestlemania, and so is crucial for that. If Orton wins, he will be main-eventing Wrestlemania against (most probably) Cena or CM Punk, and if Miz wins he could still main event, but it still wont be certain. Eventhough Miz has already won and defended the WWE title at PPV, like Ziggler, this is the biggest match of his career simply because it’s at the Royal Rumble, and so again, I expect a very good match from the two. I also expect Miz to look strong in this match, though without winning clean. Miz will bring every dastardly deed possible to the match: obviously, Alex Riley will be there, but I think ther’ll be other things us Miz’s sleeve. My instinct tells me that Miz is going to keep the title. He’s a new poster boy for the company, so I see him having a longer run than he has until now, and possibly going on to be a new face in the Wrestlemania main event.

Winner: The Miz

Match 5) THE ROYAL RUMBLE
There are so many questions to be asked about this match, but i’m going to attempt to answer some of them nonetheless. The first question is who might appear at the Rumble, seen as all the spots haven’t been filled. I love a surprise in this match, it’s almost a convention, and this can come in several forms: debuts, returns, and one-offs. I’ve heard rumours about legends appearing, but i’ve tried to avoid finding out who it is so it’s not spoiled. I think, however, that there are three ones who are genuine favourites: firstly, Roddy Piper, who turns up every so often for WWE and specifically recently when he gave an excellent promo to John Cena before Survivor Series; secondly, I think the amount Jerry Lawler’s been wrestling of late, he would be a good addition to the match, and would allow Josh Matthews some PPV commentary time and would make sense seen as he’s by the ring anyway!; thirdly, and more excitingly, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, who has just been announced as a Tough Enough personality. The glass smashing will get a MASSIVE pop, and not only that, could be good publicity for the show’s return. Plus, imagine the rub for whoever gets to eliminate him!

Speaking of returns, there are four potentials: the most likely is HHH to set up his programme with Sheamus, wishful thinking on my part leads me to suggest a return for Chris Jericho, perhaps to confront Randy Orton after punting him out of the game; next up is the dream return for loads of wrestling fans – Christian. I’ve tried to avoid to see how his injury rehab is going, partly to avoid spoilers, but if he’s healthy, he’s got to be a candidate – everything’s in place for a return and a programme with Edge; finally, the spectre of the Undertaker. WWE will want him for Wrestlemania, so he’ll have to return soon, making him a possible entrant.

Finally, in terms of debuts, there is only one I can think of (other than potential FCW debutants), and that is Awesome Kong. I think WWE will like to have women in the Rumble more regularly from now, and I also think the rumours of her being a Nexus member may be true too, with her being an in-ring enforcer to try and gain the victory for CM Punk.

Now to spots and images that may occur in the match. The one that I think is most likely is a Nexus/Corre stand-off, maybe not in it’s entirety, but at least Wade Barrett and CM Punk in the ring, facing each other.  I also think we’ll see some unexpected double-duty, especially from one or both of the losing competitors from the world title matches. Another potential thing to happen is a fresh face being among the final few: i’m referring specifically to either Drew McIntyre or John Morrison, both of whom I think will make the main event more regularly this year. These things would be typical of what is so great about the Rumble.

Finally, to the crucial question of the winner. Who do I want to win? Christian, but seen as I don’t even know if he’s in the match, I can’t really predict that way. In predicting a winner, you have to predict a blockbuster Wrestlemania main event along with it. With that in mind, here are my four favourites:

Alberto Del Rio: Del Rio is this year’s red herring in the sense that he is constantly saying he will win the match. Usually, this means he will be the last to win, but this year, it could be more complex. WWE are aware of this dynamic, and so could be playing with it. Del Rio is already a main eventer, and could, some day, main event the big show, so him winning wouldn’t be that shocking. He will at least be there close to the end. It’s harder to imagine a Wrestlemania feud for him. They couldn’t return to Mysterio, but I guess he has had a lot of issues with current champion, Edge. Nonetheless, this is why he is only my fourth favourite.

Undertaker: As I say, ‘Taker needs to return soon, and he is so strong that it is hard to imagine someone beating him if he does return. If he does win, he would probably taking on Wade Barrett, which would definitely be Wrestlemania-worthy, and would bring a lot of good closure and significance to the original storyline.

John Cena: A joint-favourite for me, Cena will always be considered for this match. He is a Wrestlemania main-stay and will always be in one of the final three matches at the main event, so a Royal Rumble route there is always on the cards. Not only that, but he has tension with many people who could meet him at the big event. For instance, he could take on The Miz, who has always been a thorn in Cena’s side. This would make for an excellent Wrestlemania match as it has been building for so long, and would pit the top face against arguably the top heel of the company. There is also the possibility that he could meet Punk at Wrestlemania, which would require Punk winning the WWE title at Elimination Chamber (and would also be a way for Miz to lose it that would make him look less weak). Finally, there are the rumours that I remember circulating about a Cena-Orton Wrestlemania, which would require not only a Cena Rumble win, but an Orton title win. Orton-Cena would definately make for a memorable Wrestlemania blockbuster main event, but if it were up to me, i’d want to save that for a year or two, simply due to the proximity to their huge feud last year.

CM Punk: The other joint-favourite for me. Punk has risen straight back up to the main event, and has been absolutely fascinating at that level. Personally, while Cena is the favourite in the eyes of most, I think WWE wont want him to win again, especially as they are trying to make new top stars. Some might think that the Nexus element might actually hurt Punk’s chances as in wrestling theory, it’s usually too good to be true, and is overcome, but I think here, Punk could continue his role of  the truth-telling icon, and do exactly as he says by winning the Rumble. If he does win, it would either be to take on Undertaker, who he does have history with, as do the Nexus, or with Cena, who he is feuding with currently. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but i’m plumping for Punk over Cena. So …

Winner: CM Punk!

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