The countdown has started, this Sunday we will witness the 30th annual Royal Rumble. This year, the fun and games will take place at the Alamodome in San Antonio Texas. Since there is quite a lot to write about, I will be doing my preview in two parts, the second part will be about the Royal Rumble match in itself, in the form of a Top 10 Favorites list, but right now, let us take a look at all the other matches that will take place on Sunday:
Pre-Show – RAW Tag Team Championship Match – Cesaro and Sheamus (c) vs Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows:
I find it a bit strange they have put this one on the pre-show, since, as far as I’m concerned, their feud has been one of the highlights of RAW in recent weeks. Indeed, the Cesaro/Sheamus pairing has been more entertaining than everyone had any right to hope for. As for Anderson and Gallows, they benefited hugely from New Day losing their titles, since that meant the end of the tag team scene being considered “comedy hour” by the writers. With a much more serious and bad-ass attitude, The Club has finally recovered that menacing aura that made them a success in NJPW. And with Cesaro and Sheamus having some in-ring communications problems in recent week, it shouldn’t be a surprise that The Club is my favorite to win this. That being said, title change or not, I fully expect this feud to continue until WrestleMania, perhaps with a few breaks here and there, since there is a lot of mileage left both in the feud and in the shenanigans between Cesaro and Sheamus. Should be good.
Winner: Anderson and Gallows
Pre-show – Nia Jax vs Sasha Banks:
While I certainly welcome Women’s feuds not involving the title (I welcome that in any division for that matter), I can’t help but wonder if WWE has any definitive plans for either one of this performers beyond this feud. While Nia Jax has done the Monster heel thing well until now, she does need some help in the ring. If she wins this match, that would be Bayley, but I’m not sure WWE is ready to take the title of Charlotte yet. So, that leaves us with Sasha Banks, but The Boss has received some criticism recently, most notably that her vaunted in-ring skills could be overrated. Let me be clear, I disagree with this critics, for now, but, at the same time, it will be interesting to see how well Banks does against Jax. Don’t forget, both Bayley and Asuka where able to have good matches against Nia, so, it’s up to Sasha to do as well. As for what happens after, there are some rumors about a Fatal 4-way between Nia, Bayley, Sasha and Charlotte at WM but they do have to be careful not to overdo it, and, for me, they’re already close to the limit. Despite all their talent the RAW Women’s division desperately needs Asuka to shake things up in my opinion.
Winner: Sasha Banks
Becky Lynch, Nikki Bella and Naomi vs Alexa Bliss, Mickie James and Natalya:
Nice little six-woman’s match with (almost) all the woman having some sort of issue with someone on the opposing side. I really welcome the return of Mickie James as she always was one of the most talented Diva’s or knockout, so she can really shake things up here. Furthermore, she’s comfortable in interviews and promo work, which is something the Smackdown! woman’s division can use. Also she can certainly help Alexa Bliss build up her confidence. The interactions between Becky and Mickie should be interesting and we’ll probably have more drama between Natalya and Nikki. For the rest I expect a good, fast-paced match, they probably won’t have that much time to play with but the talent in there should be able to make the best of that. As the only one with nothing going on, Naomi is the obvious candidate to take the pin so…
Winner: Alexa, Mickie and Natalya
WWE Cruiserweight Championship Match – Rich Swann (c) vs Neville:
Given I’ve not been able to write much since it happened, let me go on record here by saying WWE’s CWC Tournament was awesome and completely blew away NJPW’s Super J-cup. Of course, once it was done, it was time to come back to reality and witness how WWE struggled to figure out how to present said Cruiserweight on RAW. Then they launched their 205 show, which does have flaws but at least does give the cruiserweight a place to shine (at least we hope that’s what it will become) and so the RAW cruiserweight segments basically became advertisers to 205. All of this makes you wonder how seriously the RAW writers (and McMahon and a few others) take the cruiserweights and if this match isn’t just an afterthought for them. If they do, it’s a shame, as Swann does receive good crowd reactions and Neville’s transfer to the division was long overdue and will help give the cruiserweight some more visibility. I hope these two will receive some time and won’t be burdened with too many shackles, because, if given some time and freedom, this could, potentially, steal the show.
WWE RAW Women’s Championship Match – Charlotte (c) vs Bayley:
I’ve been critical of Charlotte in the past, but, it must be said, in recent weeks and months she did manage to correct most of the flaws in her repertoire. First step was ditching wrestling’s equivalent to a ball and chains nowadays, otherwise known as Ric Flair. Then she stopped trying to do too many things in her matches, in favor of less flashy bur solid in-ring work and storytelling. Finally she worked on her promo’s, learning not to get flustered when the crowd didn’t go her way. All of this have made her a very convincing heel champion, even if the RAW writers still sometimes give her material that isn’t exactly to her advantage. Speaking of that, the booking of Bayley has been baffling at times. It almost seems that the aforementioned RAW writers have no idea on how to work with a highly popular underdog character. Even then, Bayley remains very likeable and relatable to fans which is a credit her mostly, not the way she was booked. That said I would be very surprised if Bayley wins here. Charlotte never loses on PPV and, if the rumors of a Fatal 4-wy at WM are true, then it does make sense to keep Charlotte as the focal point but I do hope the girls will get better promo material to work with. Regardless of what happens, this should be a good match.
WWE Universal Championship Match – Kevin Owens (c) vs Roman Reigns:
This is scheduled to be a no-DQ match with Chris Jericho to be suspended in a shark cage above the ring. Both stipulations of course guarantee a match filled with shenanigans and a less than clean finish. The question is, who will this benefit? According to “backstage talks”, the current plans for WM, involving those two, are Owens vs Jericho and Reigns vs Undertaker. Of course, even if those rumors come true, that doesn’t help us much to try and predict the outcome as both Jericho and Taker are in the Rumble Match and both are listed as favorites to win. On top of that, the upcoming Elimination Chamber match for the RAW Universal title could radically change things after the Rumble. And then there is Owens himself who has repeatedly stated he would love to face The Undertaker at WM. Hint or rd herring? You tell me, I have no clue at this point. Only thing I know is, it would be a bad idea for WWE to put the belt on Reigns at this point, since the crowds would simply boo the hell out of that move, which would create a rather awkward (for Reigns at least) atmosphere during the build-up towards WM. Especially if Taker is the RR winner. I’m not even going to consider a Reigns hell turn here, since that has become WWE4s version of the Loch Ness Monster, often talked about, never really seen. Anyway, observers favor Reigns here, but shenanigans usually favor the heels, so, given WWE has done everything except putting up a sign to suggest there WILL be shenanigans, I’m going for Owens retaining.
Winner: Kevin Owens
WWE Championship Match – AJ Styles (c) vs John Cena:
Well, it MUST be WrestleMania season since John Cena is back in the title picture. OK, I know, some of you will say he never really left, but still. That this will be a good match is not really in question, since those two have proven in the past they can have great matches (thank you AJ). As for the winner, we must once again look at the WM rumors and those are… Cena vs Samoa Joe and Styles vs Shane McMahon? Really? Wow. If the Style vs Shane match indeed comes true, then we must assume AJ will lose his title on Sunday, and I do not think that would be a very good idea. Then again, WWE might believe it’s better to have their golden boy (Cena in case somebody was doubting) wearing some gold before WM, but honestly, I don’t see what that will change. Styles was one of their few success stories last year and taking the title off him and putting it on someone he’s already beaten three times would stop Styles’ momentum, plain and simple. But, again, it’s Cena and it’s WWE so a title change IS very likely on Sunday. ill going to go with Styles, because I strongly believe this is HIS time, not the other guy’s. But I’m probably wrong…
Winner: AJ Styles
And there you have it. As so often with WWE, this card will more than likely deliver match-wise. Booking-wise, I’m not so sure. Anyway, we’ll see what happens on SUnday and stay tuned for my Royal Rumble match preview!