Craig Wilson, Jamie Lithgow & James Giles
This Sunday, the WWE will host their annual Royal Rumble event which is seen as the first step on the countdown to Wrestlemania. At the event itself, 30 superstars will battle for the chance to face either the WWE Champion or World Heavyweight Champion at Wrestlemania 29.
Elsewhere, CM Punk’s 434 day reign as WWE Champion faces its stiffest challenge to date in The Rock. Very few in the internet wrestling community give Punk much chance here, but can he hold on, by hook or crook, and continue his reign as WWE Champion.
Also on the card, after his surprising Last Man Standing victory over The Big Show earlier this month, Alberto Del Rio will have to do it all again if he hopes to retain his belt on Sunday Night and Team Hell No face The Rhodes Scholars for the WWE Tag Team Champions and US Champion Antonio Cesaro locks horns with The Miz in the YouTube pre-show match. Here’s Craig Wilson and Jamie Lithgow’s thoughts and predictions for Sunday’s show.
Antonio Cesaro © v The Miz
United States Championship
YouTube Pre-Show Match
Craig: The Miz has made heroic efforts at getting himself back involved in the WWE product and his on-going feud with Cesaro is potentially great for both. Cesaro is struggling a bit to get the crowd interested in him, that hasn’t been helped by the pointless feud with R-Truth, whilst The Miz has gone from headlining Wrestlemania 27 to not even appearing at Wrestlemania 28. This feud, over the US strap, has potential for both. I don’t see The Miz winning at the pre-show match at Sunday’s Rumble but can see this feud going on a bit longer.
Winner and still United States Champion: Antonio Cesaro.
Jamie: I’m slowly but surely warming towards Cesaro purely due to the sheer amount of talent the man has, because let’s face it he’s been given a bit of a dud character to play with. On the other hand I’m having a bit of trouble buying Miz as a babyface, he’s so clichéd. I feel like the momentum is with Cesaro in this one, he is very much on the rise while Miz is still occupying the same spot on the card he occupied before his face turn.
Winner and still US Champion: Antonio Cesaro
Team Hell No © v Team Rhodes Scholars
WWE Tag Team Championship
Craig: I’ve enjoyed this feud so far and Team Hell No have been a breath of fresh air for the tag team championship. They’ve made t he belts a more prominent part of the WWE plans. This should be a good match-up that I see Cody and Damian winning. What happens after that is anyone’s guess. Do Kane and Bryan split up or do they benefit from chasing instead of being chased and continue the feud with Rhodes Scholars?
Winners, and new tag team champions: Team Rhodes Scholars.
Jamie: It seems like these guys have been feuding on and off for ages, which is no bad thing. When the tag team division reached its peak in 2000 it consisted of the same three or four teams trading the titles with each other. For the first time in a long time WWE has a clear and recognisable tag team division and these are the top two teams. All four men or over individually but are also recognised by fans as being part of a genuine tag team too. This should be a good match at the very worst and I see Rhodes Scholars winning the belts. Bryan and Kane could use a little refresh and chasing the titles rather than being chased may do the trick.
Winners and new Tag Team Champions: Team Rhodes Scholars
James: Given that are only 4 matches on the main show, I’m guessing this will open and be given a good 10-15 minutes. I find both teams pretty entertaining and either will represent well as Tag Champions, but after 4 months it feels time for Kane and Bryan to drop the gold. Rhodes Scholars can’t chase for much longer and not win without losing some credibility, and with ADR likely to win his bout and a face likely to win the Rumble, the heels need some victories on the show too.
Winners and new tag team champions: Team Rhodes Scholars
Alberto Del Rio © v The Big Show
World Heavyweight Championship
Last Man Standing Match
Craig: I was very surprised that Alberto Del Rio won the belt the last time around and I can’t see him beating The Big Show in another last man standing match. Unlike Jamie, however, I don’t see Ziggler cashing in Money in the Bank. Instead, I see Show regaining it but I can’t see him being the champion heading into Wrestlemania. I suspect Sheamus will have it back by then.
Winner, and new World Heavyweight Champion: The Big Show
Jamie: These guys have a bit of a job on to top their original match from Smackdown the other week. I’m intrigued by this match, not by the match itself but by the World Title situation in general. It’s been a long time since I’ve been interested in this title picture, I wonder if Sheamus leaving the scene had anything to do with it?! Anyway, these two know how to work a good last man standing match and I see them trying to equal or surpass their last effort. As for a winner, well I have a theory; firstly I can see The Big Show recapturing the gold, so that is my prediction for the match outcome. However, I also see Ziggler cashing in his briefcase on the big man. I have this idea purely because Show has form with this scenario. Daniel Bryan cashed in after the big man’s match with Mark Henry leaving him with a 45 second reign. Lightning could strike twice and really push Big Show to the edge, which could help ignite a new feud for the Giant.
Winner and new World Heavyweight Champion: The Big Show.
James: Despite his advancing age and weight, Big Show has pulled off some really decent performances in the last few months, and there is no reason to think this bout won’t be very watchable. Their Smackdown clash in which ADR won the gold was fun and exciting and they will probably have to pull a few bigger spots out the bag to top it. ADR is the sensible choice to win and hopefully go to Wrestlemania as the face champion. Big Show regaining the belt would achieve naff all.
Winner: Alberto Del Rio
CM Punk © v The Rock
Craig: Everything seems to point towards The Rock winning this one. Like Jamie says, it seems to be written in stone. I, however, see Punk retaining. I don’t see it being a clean victory but I do see Punk leaving with the belt. Ideally, I see Punk’s reign running a whole lot longer. It makes whatever he does at ‘mania far more interesting. If he isn’t champ and takes on The Undertaker I just don’t deem him to be a serious threat to ‘taker’s streak. Title run v streak is very interesting. The Rock winning this match and Cena winning Rumble fills me with dread for another Rock v Cena ‘mania main event. Twice in a lifetime you say?
Winner, and still WWE Champion: CM Punk.
Jamie: It seems to be written in stone that The Rock will be winning the WWE title. You can read my thoughts on this elsewhere on this blog but it seems certain that it will happen, but will it happen at The Rumble? As a CM Punk fan I hope and pray that The Rock doesn’t defeat WWE’s top heel and most interesting performer in what would be his third match in seven years. WWE would be shooting themselves squarely in the foot by booking a movie star to defeat its top performer at the first time of asking. They should let Punk outsmart The Rock on Sunday and hold off until Elimination Chamber before making the title switch. That would leave Rock and Punk tied at 1-1 and let The Great One head to Wrestlemania where he could repay John Cena’s favour from last year to square that feud at 1-1 too. This way Rock still wins the title and he still headlines Wrestlemania against Cena, but importantly he also puts WWE’s top two performers over. That makes sense to me, but I see Rocky winning the title clean at the Rumble. It completely sucks but that’s what I think will happen.
Winner and new WWE Champion: The Rock.
James: I think their styles will gel well and the actual match will be very good, but it is hard to predict the outcome; there is no way of knowing what WWE is booking for Mania for certain, so it is based on what seems likely to happen. Many people believe WWE wants to have The Rock and Cena battle for the title at Mania, but given the way they hyped it last year it would seem a bit of a piss take. Another theory is that Punk and Undertaker will meet in a streak vs streak battle, but that would create a booking dead end; I don’t see how Punk could convincingly beat Undertaker and end the streak without it being screwy, and Undertaker can’t win the title as a part timer. Punk should retain either way and in the best situation would drop the belt to an up and coming face at Mania, helping to propel someone new into the upper card.
Winner: CM Punk
The Royal Rumble Match
Winner Receives A WWE or World Heavyweight Title Match At WrestleMania XXIX
Craig: There are a number of serious contenders for this year’s Rumble. If The Rock wins does Cena win the Rumble and earn a Wrestlemania rematch? Does Ziggler, from number 1, take the ironman route to winning the Rumble? Does Punk retain the title and The Undertaker win the Rumble match creating a Wrestlemania streak v 434 title reign streak match at ‘mania? Or does Ryback win pushing himself firmly back into the title picture? Out of those four possibilities, the ones that appeal to me are a Ziggler win or a victory for The Undertaker. I worry slightly that Ziggler’s inability to date to cash in Money in the Bank may mean that those in the back do not have faith in him. An ironman run on Sunday could be exactly what he needs to prove any doubters wrong. A victory for The Undertaker would create an amazing Wrestlemania main event with two hugely impressive streaks on the line there. Punk would be seen, as WWE Champion, as a serious contender to end the streak. Punk without the belt wouldn’t be as much of a threat.
Your winner: The Undertaker. Ziggler will last an hour though. He’ll be in final four.
Jamie: There’s a good few contenders to pick from this year with no one superstar being obviously pushed as the focus. I could realistically see Orton, Sheamus, Ryback, Ziggler, Cena and even a surprise entry Brock Lesnar winning the match. However, looking towards the future it looks certain that Cena will face The Rock for the title at Wrestlemania and the only way for this to happen organically is by Cena winning the Rumble. Incidentally I see Ziggler having a big night. I see him cashing in his briefcase and cutting a promo about wanting to unify the titles. He won’t get to but he’ll be there at the start of The Rumble I think he’ll be there at the end too. John Cena will win but Ziggler will end the night looking like a star, until he gets jobbed out to Cena again of course.
Winner: John Cena
James: Out of the 18 participants officially announced, John Cena, Dolph Ziggler and Ryback seem to have the best chance of winning. Cena has ready made programs with either winner of the WWE championship match, Ryback has history with Punk and Ziggler could work with Punk or ADR brilliantly too. Sheamus or Orton could be dark horses and there are still 12 entrants we don’t know, so who knows who else has a chance. WWE could be planning the return of someone and go with a very left-field winner, but history shows they tend to be pretty predictable at the Rumble. All the other entrants are athletic and decent workers, so the actual action should be fairly good too.
Winner: Cena or Ziggler (too close for me to pick)
Craig: I am really looking forward to the Royal Rumble, more so than in previous years. We have a very solid undercard and a Rumble that has a number of serious contenders to win.
Buy/not buy: Buy, it’s not even in doubt.
Jamie: I have high hopes for this event but I think they will be dashed with the predictable happening. Having said that, it’s the Royal Rumble and it should be a good show either way.
Buy/not buy: Buy of course, it’s The Rumble!
James: Every match should be very watchable and entertaining. Punk Vs The Rock is the main draw, this should be bout of the night really. The direction everyone is moving in seems positive too, WWE should keep the momentum going with ADR if they want him to get over huge. The only negative for me is the likelihood of Cena winning the Rumble, but even that isn’t certain. Should be a heck of a show.
Buy/not buy: Definitely buy.