John Cena vs Kane
Mike Gojira: On one side of the ring: a heel turn desperately in the making. On the other side of the ring: a guy in a mask who returned to his Big Red Monster gimmick five years too late. I honestly could not give a shit, because the only fallout from this disaster of a storyline is the complete destruction of Zack Ryder for reasons I can’t possibly comprehend. Cena will probably be on the verge of snapping until his conscience gets the best of him and he lets Kane live, thereby thwarting the evil Sith lord. I think this is the first time since Cena’s United States Championship match against the Big Show at Wrestlemania that he’s curtain jerked, so that in itself will be interesting.
Winner: Cena Skywalker
JAMES ALSOP: Here’s how this normally works: I think of something that makes good narrative sense, summarise how things should turn out with much gusto, and then weep into my Kleenex (Man-Size, of course) as Vince and co. proceed to do the exact opposite.
So. What should happen is that John wins this in epic underdog fashion after being beaten like JR’s government mule for twenty minutes, like the Umaga Last Man Standing match in 2007. The match should play out as an in-ring reflection of the rivalry so far: Kane should beat the heck out Cena, who should be intimidated and overpowered at every turn. John needs to sell Kane’s offence like he’s never sold before. Given that making his opponents look like believable threats has always been the weakest part of John’s act, I’m not really asking much. But Kane needs to look like an absolute monster here so that the audience really care about Cena’s eventual heroic comeback. John should then win cleanly after reversing a tombstone into an AA.
Then – then – the magic should happen. Picture this: Cena, having won clean, goes to leave. But turning, he sees Kane getting up. Full of rage, he flies back into the ring and hits Kane with everything he’s got. Another AA or two, a prolonged STF, steel chairs and the ring bell. Referees are unable to stop the onslaught; Eve runs in and Cena shoves her down; John places a steel chair around Kane’s throat and applies another STF. Kane is bleeding from the mouth… In short, Cena needs to beat Kane so badly that it goes above and beyond anything Kane may have done to deserve it.
And then the crowd will turn on him like they’ve wanted to since 2005. It’s not just about the violence per se… it’s about Cena turning his back on the very principles which won the match for him. The crowd will see a man willingly abandon his moral code and become the thing he hates.
Just like that, Cena will look more dangerous than he ever has. He’ll be more three-dimensional than he’s ever been. He’ll be that wonderful thing – a sympathetic villain. And finally, he’ll be ready for The Rock.
Which is exactly why Eve will run in instead and cost John the match, to set up a return bout at the Elimination Chamber. Come on. This is WWE, here.
Steven Gepp: This feud means nothing to me. Seriously. I just don’t get it. It’s all “Come to the Dark Side, Luke,” and Cena (as the young Skywalker personage) starts to succumb, but doesn’t, thus making the universe safe for endorsement deals and merchandising contracts. Amen.
Chris Sanders: Kane has had the upper hand the entire time and for that fact plus its Super Cena added onto that WWE will, in no way, make Cena look bad leading up to the biggest match in their recent history. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of hate embracing will happen from this but the outcome is a no-brainer.
Winner: John Cena
M.C. Brown: I think it’s a surprise Zack Ryder run in, but it backfires and costs Cena. Kane has more fuel to instigate Cena to be mad at Eve and Ryder. Where does The Rock come in tho? See Rumble.
Winner: Kane(he needs it more)
World Heavyweight Championship Triple Threat Steel Cage Match: Daniel Bryan vs Big Show vs Mark Henry
Mike Gojira: I heard it through the grapevine that Henry hyperextended his knee during the Smackdown taping. Combine that with his limited mobility when he’s healthy as well as Show’s lethargic movements and you’ve got one stinker of a match. The cage gimmick is just to limit both big men and allow Bryan to get the cheap victory. I never understood how a cage match was supposed to END a feud, since the object is to run away from your opponent and escape the cage. Yeah, a real manly way to say, “I beat you decisively by climbing a chain link fence or opening a door.” Anywho, expect DB to retain and hopefully move on to a legit opponent; although the way the Smackdown roster is being handled, the only guys waiting in the wings are Sheamus and Randy Orton.
Winner: Daniel Bryan
JAMES ALSOP: The first title match of the night is, believe it or not, the one I’m most looking forward to. It’s well structured: two bad guys against one good guy. It’s got Daniel Bryan in it, and he seems to bring out the best in Henry and Show. It won’t have any run-ins. It’s the last match (hopefully) in the never-ending Show-Henry feud, which probably means that it’ll have a decisive, if not a clean, finish.
Bryan will win this so that he can defend at the Chamber, where he’ll likely lose to Randy Orton. The finish will probably involve him pinning Henry after a Big Show knockout fart.
Steven Gepp: Not sure, but I’ll go safe. Daniel Bryan steals the win after Show takes out Henry. This will then make Show and Henry become a tag team, they’ll win the belts, implode at the next PPV, and we have Show v Henry at Wrestlemania because we certainly haven’t seen enough of that feud!
Winner: Daniel Bryan
Chris Sanders: The cage match may seem like it benefits the two giants with the little guy but that would only ring true if it were a hell in a cell match. With Bryan squirming his way out of matches lately, him scampering over the cage seems perfect in this scenario and may likely happen.
Winner: Daniel Bryan
M.C. Brown: It’s easier for Daniel Bryan to steal a win here after one of the big men hits a big move on another. Not sure he’ll make it to Mania as Champion, but that’s what Smackdown Elimination Chamber is for.
Winner: Daniel Bryan
WWE Championship w/ Special Referee John Laurinaitis: CM Punk vs Dolph Ziggler
Mike Gojira: Ziggler, even with four “wins” under his belt, is still being booked as a pathetic cheating heel. Let him win some matches legitimately, like he did while United States Champion, to at least make it seem like Punk is truly against the odds. But I guess with the added stipulation of Laryngitis as ref, the heel doesn’t really need to get over, does he? I was looking forward to this until they shoved the GM into the equation. It should still be a good match, but the ending sequence will probably be a mess.
Winner: CM Punk
JAMES ALSOP: I’m not as excited about this as you may think. See, WWE have booked themselves into a real corner here, and now they’re in a situation SO sticky it’d make even Kelly Kelly blush.
If Ziggler loses here, all his credibility will have gone down the dunny. He’ll be that one guy who gets a world title shot once a year and blows it. On top of that, Johnny Ace will also have been made to look like no match for CM Punk for the umpteenth time, and any heat that the angle once had will be gone forever.
If, on the other hand, Dolph wins, WWE will either begin the road to its biggest Wrestlemania in years with an untested world champion at the helm of its premiere show, or they’ll have to slur Dolph’s credibility by hotshotting the title to someone else straight away (thereby adding another transitional reign to the WWE Championship’s history).
Moreover, Dolph would only win, surely, with help from Ace. But while that means that Johnny’s angle with Punk can continue, where will it end? Wasted in a throwaway match at Elimination Chamber? Or – Lord have mercy – in a match at Wrestlemania?
The wrestling will be good, but Ace’s involvement all but guarantees shenanigans. The best case scenario here is probably a Punk win. But Ace will no doubt cost him the belt next month.
Winner: CM Punk.
Steven Gepp: Sorry, but I think Punk wins this one. Interference from Vickie backfires, also from Swagger, and this sets up Ziggles v Swagman at Wrestlemania, because the people are just clamourin’ to see that one!
Winner: CM Punk
Chris Sanders: It seems as if they’ve been stacking the pile against Punk, although the only one to seem down and out is Laurinaitis. Ace will try and fail to screw Punk, I don’t know how but he will because I still think WWE will keep the belt on Punk til Mania.
Winner: CM Punk
M.C. Brown: This will be an awesome match, but stories have to be built around Punk on this one. It would be cool to see DZ win, but maybe this Summer. There is a possibility of an attempted screwjob where Triple H ends up hurting Punk instead of helping, but I think that might be a bit much.
Winner: CM Punk
2012 Royal Rumble
Mike Gojira: There are currently four guys being built as the possible winner of the Rumble: Randy Orton, Chris Jericho, Wade Barrett, and Sheamus. Barrett is unlikely, so I’m not going to bet the house on him. I would like to see Jericho victorious, especially after the hype for his return and his cryptic message last Monday night. Orton is in his hometown but he’s not making the famously overused “returning from injury” surprise appearance this year. Sheamus is more likely, but I’m gonna go with my gut instinct here.
Winner: Chris Jericho
JAMES ALSOP: Yeah, that whole “every WWE superstar is eligible” thing? That either means that we’ll see the can’t-miss return of Bill DeMott, or it means that Undertaker is coming back.
There are no other big-name top-prospect returns to speak of. Orton is already back, Sin Cara (big name? Psh.) is immobile, RVD and Angle are tied up with TNA… We might just see the start of the Rey Mysterio Comeback Tour 2012, but he won’t win the thing.
Perhaps Ryback will debut, or Seth Rollins or Antonio Cesario? We may get a smattering of legends to advertise the WWE Network reality show. We may even see John Cena, Big Show, Henry and Ziggler pulling double duty. (And if John Cena enters the Rumble, you can guarantee that The Rock will run-in to eliminate him.)
But we will see Undertaker return. And it’ll be excellent. And where there’s Undertaker, Triple H will surely follow to set up their third Wrestlemania encounter.
Jericho and Taker will be the final two, but Triple H shenanigans will spell the end for Taker before Jericho even gets a shot in.
Final four: Undertaker, Jericho, Sheamus and Christian.
Winner: Chris Jericho, to round off a career of accolades.
Dark Horse Pick: Christian. (You’d love to see that, admit it.)
Steven Gepp: The Royal Rumble is my favourite WWE PPV. Even when I was in an anti-WWF place (late 1990s to WM X-7), I did not miss a Rumble. Yes, that meant I saw Vince McMahon won it by spending half the match on commentary, and Shawn Michaels and British Bulldog go the distance in the 60-second Rumble, but I also saw the good ones, and the only one I missed was the very first one, which was never released in Australia. So, of course, I am in mark heaven this week.
Okay, so the Rumble. Here’s some predictions:
Surprise entrants: Road Warrior Animal (to help further the Johnny Ace story-line – he’s not in it to win it, but to do his brother’s dirty work), Matt Hardy (he’s been quiet lately and I’ve read that it’s the WWE’s dollar sending him through rehab), a Horseman (for that HoF pop… but obviously not Paul Roma or Chris Benoit, and probably not Ric Flair or Ole Anderson), Tim Tebow (celebrity, to get some of that mainstream publicity they like so much, and leading to the now mandatory celebrity match at Wrestlemania).
Surprise return: as well as Chris Jericho, I think Rey Mysterio Jr will come back for this one. A part of me also thinks John Morrison will make his return.
No longevity records will be set, and, likewise, no quick eliminations after Santino’s effort to defeat the Warlord. But I think the Miz is going to be the longest in this Rumble.
I think Booker T will cost Cody Rhodes. I think Goldust will get involved as well somehow, maybe the one to eliminate Cody when Booker does his distraction (leading to the rumoured WM match between Book and Cody. Book will come out with Goldust, who will then turn on him, and big Dusty will come out, and we’ll have the Rhodes Family Treehouse).
Final 4: I reckon we’ll have Mick Foley, Randy Orton, Chris Jericho and Sheamus.
Mick Foley: won’t win. He’s there for the nostalgia pop, really, and maybe to give Randy something to do at Wrestlemania, maybe even referencing the ‘legend killer’ stuff and the Rock/Foley team that battled Evolution at WM20.
Randy Orton: well, of course he could win. And there is a part of me afraid he will. Why afraid? Because Orton bores me. His RKO is a good move (though DDP’s Diamond Cutter seemed more likely to come out of anywhere), but the way he thumps the mat and his constipated facials and the way he sells bores me.
Chris Jericho: my favourite to win, just because I think it was the only way they could get him back into the fold. That and his whole current schtick just says he’s going to win. And he still won’t say much.
Sheamus: A bit of a dark horse, but could win just to ram home the “anyone can win and headline Wrestlemania” aspect of the Rumble. That, and the crowds seem to be getting behind him, and a face win is always good for business. This would mean he would face a heel, potentially Daniel Bryan, at WM, and we could have an interesting match on our hands. I didn’t say good, just interesting.
Winner: Chris Jericho (who goes on to face Punk at WM)
Chris Sanders: tis time for the best WWE moment all year, screw wrestlemania…this is it. Of course I won’t be the first and only person to say that surprise appearances/returns can’t be completely accounted for so I usually just go with whom is known to be entered already.My final four is gonna venn diagram into my three picks and I don’t have much reasoning for them other than its what seems most likely.
Final Four: Randy Orton, Chris Jericho, Sheamus, Miz
Winner: 1)Jericho (backup picks are Orton and Sheamus)
M.C. Brown: Surprises will be 1st Rumble Winner Hacksaw returning for the 25th one, Alberto Del Rio, Undertaker, possible appearance by Brock, but I think that will be saved for Elimination Chamber to give Brock more time to rest. Ryder’s return might take place in the Cena match just as Triple H already being announced for Raw kind of hurts a surprise there, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be in it. Cena in the Rumble happen and should be good for a middle of the Rumble storyline where I think it’d be perfect to have The Rock make a surprise return and eliminate him or Rock Bottom him causing someone to eliminate him(Ryder would be bittersweet if he was the next entrant or there when it happened). Undertaker throws out 5 guys to get to at least 40 eclipsing Kane and Michaels as the man with the most Eliminations. That might be a reason why Kane might not be in this one.
Final Four: Undertaker, Chris Jericho, Alberto Del Rio, Randy Orton
Winner: Chris Jericho
Mike Gojira: This should make for an interesting Rumble. The final 4 seem to be obvious, but any of them could win the whole enchilada so it should be exciting and unpredictable…the way a Rumble should be. The undercard doesn’t hold my interest, with the exception of the WWE Championship match, and that’s only if the ref interference is kept to a minimum. Hopefully I actually make some money this year.
JAMES ALSOP: When the only match on the card that doesn’t look like it’ll have an unsatisfying ending is a Big Show match, it doesn’t really say a lot for the rest of the card. Punk-Ziggles will be fine, but the ending is going to need some serious consideration from Vince and co.
Elsewhere, look for the 30-Man Royal Rumble to be one of the dullest in recent memory. The roster has never been so thin, and Randy Orton will be the ring general for 99% of it. That should tell you all you need to know.
Steven Gepp: As I said, I love the Rumble. But on paper this show looks lacklustre. I would half-expect a tag title match or a women’s match to also make an 8-minute appearance somewhere on the card, but, of course, the Rumble might end up being an epic 3-hour extravaganza all on its own!! Or maybe not. This show, though, shows something that has been happening for a while – the lack of serious attempt to build up strong wrestlers to be consistently over and believable to face the duo of BatOrton and SuperCena. Challengers come and challengers go, and while we have a current face champ in CM Punisher, he’s just not a viable long-term option. I mean, Punisher is a much cooler comic book character, but in the popularity stakes Superman and Batman are in a different stratosphere, and their films are better, too. Why? He does not market well to the demographic. For a start, he’s intelligent. Where’s the 3 to 5 word catch phrase (and not “It’s clobberin’ time!” as he stole that one)? The t-shirts are cool, but the body shape? Where’s the ripped muscles and over-developed traps? And his finishing move is not one kids can pretend to hit on their friends; an RKO and AA can be done while the GTS is hard. And, on the other side of the coin, where are the over heels? The Ric Flairs, the Tully Blanchards, the heels that may not have the title but you know they are a threat each and every time they step into the ring? As much as they are building up Mark Henry, too many of us remember Mae Young and Sexual Chocolate. The Miz has been up and down the card so much you’d think he was on a bungee cord. And Daniel Bryan? Too small… although his new heel persona is the closest I’ve seen some one come to Ric Flair. He could be a heel just because he is “that damn good”, and I would actually lay down money to see he and Punk go at it in a WWE ring with a title (or 2) on the line. So long as they were given 20+ minutes. Ah-hem. Sorry. So, anyway, it will be interesting to see what this Rumble will bring and, by extension, what 2012 will bring for the WWE.
M.C. Brown: Jericho winning the Rumble makes sense. He never has won it. It’ll give him a reason to speak at length and challenge the Champion, CM Punk at Mania. However, the good part of it is that while this match could be teased and followed throught, Triple H could still end up costing Punk at Elimination Chamber and Undertaker could still win the belt and make it Jericho vs. Undertaker at Mania if Brock Lesnar doesn’t make it to Wrestlemania. But I just still feel there was more to that WWE ’12 meeting with Lesnar and Paul Heyman. It just seems more likely at this point that Lesnar would return at Elimination Chamber if he’s coming back not here. Sheamus and Triple H II should happen then with a role reversal of face/heel or Triple Heel comes out of the “Respect” rematch. Del Rio and Orton could be a Mania match and seeds would be sowed here after a double elimination brawl. How does Jericho beat the Undertaker? That’ll be the million dollar question. Heyman distraction as he gets up from his seat in the crowd? Never say never. WWE needs to really go all out for this Rumble and let people know they missed something special if they didn’t see it.