by Frank Lucci
Let’s get mildly prepared to rumble! The Royal Rumble always has the bonus of being one of the few Pay-Per-View’s guaranteed to offer a surprise or two, and despite some stinkers in recent years, last year’s Rumble was my favorite PPV of the 2016. This year is actually very similar to last year’s. There is a possibility that Reigns could walk out as champ, people assume Brock will lose the rumble match due to his probable WrestleMania opponent knocking him out. People are ready to fantasy book New Japan (Kenny Omega, though that looks pretty unlikely) and NXT stars (Samoa Joe) into significant roles into ‘Mania. Getting some major deja vu from the PPV, but can WWE pull off the same magic for a second time? One big factor is the eight (!!!) matches for the Rumble, through three déjà vu are pre-show matches so they do not really count. This could seriously drain the crowd before the Rumble match begins, but the possibility of surprise entrants and the hype surrounding the match should help. And for the first time in ages the winner of the match is in doubt, with many different people in the running to win. I’m Spaceman Frank, and I am here to predict the Royal Rumble 2017.
Cesaro and Sheamus (C) vs. The Club (WWE Raw Tag Team Championship Match with Two Referees)
Oh boy, talk about an exciting stipulation! Totally do not expect a screwy finish here! The Club keep hovering around and losing to everyone, so why are they getting this shot again? If they are just going to fart around and not win the bets, then can they just go to SmackDown and be AJ’s henchmen again? Cesaro and Sheamus are a much better tag team then they have any right to be, but I still have zero reason to care or cheer for their future success. I predict that The Club will actually win, so that Sheamus and Cesaro can brawl while in the Rumble and we can get the Best of Seven Series: Twice in a Lifetime.
Becky Lynch, Nikki Bella, and Naomi vs. Alexa Bliss, Mickie James, and Natalya
What to do with the SmackDown women when they got a PPV in around two weeks? Why, throw them into a six women tag match of course! If the ladies actually get an Elimination Chamber match at Elimination Chamber I expect it to be this match but every person for themselves. Really hard to care about this match, but it is better than listening to the pre-show panel spout nonsense. Heel team wins because they have the newcomer in Mickie James and the Champ in Alexa Bliss.
Nia Jax vs. Sasha Banks
The only pre-show match I actually am invested in. It is time for Nia Jax to have a real opponent, and having shown up in NXT after the Four Horsewomen (minus Bayley) guarantees she has some interesting matchups. She needs to get more involved in the division to freshen things up, so hopefully she takes advantage here and shows she is worth a push sooner rather than later. My only hangup is Banks’ bumping. If she flies around and gets banged up by Charlotte, imagine what will happen when the much larger Jax starts tossing her around. Jax crushes Banks in dominating fashion.
Rich Swann (C) vs. Neville (WWE Cruiserweight Championship Match)
This match should be plenty exciting, but Swann has fallen into one of the biggest pitfalls for babyfaces in the WWE: he does not talk like a human. He went from giving heartfelt sitdown interviews about his past to making fun of Neville’s ears. He, Reigns, and Rollins need to form Shield 2.0 where they act like Kiefer Sutherland in Stand By Me and expect people to cheer for them. Anyway, both these guys are magic in the ring regardless of the actual built for this match, so this should be a highlight for the division. It seems as though Neville is destined to win the belt, but four champions so soon into the division’s run is too many. Swann retains to stop the hot potatoing between the belt and so WWE can stall until they inevitably just throw eight or ten guys into the ring at WrestleMania to fight for the belt.
Charlotte Flair (C) vs. Bayley
Will Bayley beat Charlotte and hand her the first PPV loss of her career?? No, no she will not. If WWE was going to go all in on Bayley getting the belt, they would have done a better job at hyping the match. As it stands now, all the WWE did was have people make fun of her and then for Bayley to be like “eh whatever.” I really do not see Charlotte losing the belt before WrestleMania to add extra emphasis to her first big PPV loss, and they can draw this out much like they did for Charlotte vs. Banks until the big show. Maybe have Charlotte get the DQ win to taint the streak? Dana Brooke saves her friend/ boss/ abusive girlfriend and Charlotte keeps the belt.
Kevin Owens (C) vs. Roman Reigns (No DQ match with Chris Jericho suspended in a shark cage above the ring for the WWE Universal Championship)
I just felt dumber after writing the above sentence. We get it WWE. You have a toy with a cage suspended above the WWE ring. Kids are the only people who love Reigns. Why not have Reigns beat up that dastardly Owens as kids imitate it with their playsets? I just do not have words for how stupid I feel this is. This match was effectively ruined the moment Jericho, for reasons completely unknown to me or sanity in general, Loony Tunes-style stepped into the cage when it was first revealed so he could be locked in and suspended above the ring. At least have Reigns push him into the cage rather than him just wander in. WWE has made it clear that they think Owens is nowhere near the level of Reigns, and this match is to get the belt off him so he can feud with Jericho finally. Reigns wins, hopefully after Owens beats the piss out of him so I can at least laugh at Reign’s pain.
AJ Styles (C) vs. John Cena (WWE Championship Match)
My third match between these two promises to be as epic as their previous encounters, with the added bonus of the championship on the line. AJ Styles has knocked it out of the park for his entire run, even when he was dealing with Ellsworth. Cena has come right back to SmackDown and has not lost a step. The promos between the two are the highlights of the week for me, and credit to the two men for making me fine with Cena picking up the belt again. For indeed, I believe Cena will finally get his win and the belt at the Rumble. It is WrestleMania season after all, and WWE is going with the strongest hand that they can. With the constant rumors that Styles and Owens are being pushed aside for Cena and Reigns, it makes sense for Cena to grab the belt here. I am not completely certain that Cena wins here considering there seems to be a new rumored opponent for him every day, but I cannot see the WWE having Styles go into ‘Mania as champ. Big John gets the win and we establish his challenger at Elimination Chamber as Styles hopefully gets a better match at Mania than him versus Shane McMahon.
Royal Rumble Match
I’m going to do something a little different here and rank, from least likely to most likely, the chances of each announced competitor of winning the Royal Rumble match. There are 22 announced entrants for the match, so I predict the match will be rounded out by Samoa Joe (because c’mon, he has to be in this match after missing Takeover), James Ellsworth (to get destroyed by a much larger man), Breezeango (for extra bodies), Kane (because he is a legacy character), AJ Styles (needs more SmackDown stars), TJ Perkins (needs more Cruiserweights), and Nia Jax (because why not?).
22. Big Cass- Tag team people never win.
21. Rusev- Always is out first despite being the best human being on the planet (as seen in Total Divas).
20. Sheamus- Already has one match on the PPV and it’s on the pre-show.
19. Xavier Woods- Here for faction warfare.
18. Kofi Kingston- Here for faction warfare/agility.
17. Big E- Here for faction warfare/sexy dancing.
16. Sami Zayn- Going to last for minimum 45 minutes, only to be thrown out by the real stars.
15. Baron Corbin- Most likely going to throw out a fan favorite to get some heat/acquire new rival.
14. Cesaro- Going to last longer than Sheamus, but still following the rule of people with a previous match having no chance in the Rumble.
13. Mojo Rawley- my roommate Kim loves him, so I give him a slight chance to do something significant here at the Rumble. Plus, he has to do something while Zack Ryder is out with injury.
12. Big Show- Gonna get tossed by someone (Mojo?) to show how strong said person is.
11. Luke Harper- Despite being my boy, he is going to get tossed by the rest of the Wyatts. Perhaps he will turn face here after his treatment, or they will have Randy turn and Luke forgives Bray instantly. Personally, I’d rather see all three get into it and we get a Mani triple threat out of this.
10. Dean Ambrose- Already Intercontinental champ, so he will find a way to lose here. Perhaps he will find a new rival here, or they will have him enter the Elimination Chamber and find his ‘Mania opponent there (or we get the ladder match. Either way he is not winning).
9. Dolph Ziggler- Ziggler is one of those guys that will last until the final five or six people, but get tossed when it is time to clear out the pool. Evil Ziggler is best Ziggler but I see WWE waiting to establish where his ceiling will be for the future.
8. The Miz- Momma Mizanin’s baby boy had a hell of a 2016, but he is not ready to get into the main event just before the biggest show of the year. In the doldrums after SummerSlam? Sure. Springtime quickie run to shake things up? Maybe. But not right now.
7. Randy Orton- This is where the serious contenders start showing up. I can see him throwing out Bray when they are the final two, and I can see Bray doing the same to Orton. I do not think he really needs the win though, and his future feud with Wyatt does not need a belt thrown into the mix too.
6. Bray Wyatt- See the previous entry, with the added bonus of being a creepy cult leader who has henchmen to help him win.
5. Braun Strowman- The massive mountain of a man could pull a 2001 Kane and eliminate a record number of people. Then be the second to last person left and get booted out, again just like 2001 Kane. There are plenty of rumors surrounding the big guy winning, but with so many big stars in the match I do not think he is going to walk out the winner.
4. Chris Jericho- I can see Jericho being a dark horse to win the match, but only if Owens retains the belt. Since I already said Reigns is going to lose, this drops him down a few pegs in my book.
3. Goldberg- Already has a big feud for ‘Mania almost certainly happening, and with a contract that has even less dates than Lesnar I do not see him challenging for the belt.
2. Brock Lesnar- I wanna say he will not win the Rumble, due to the whole Goldberg deal. But it is still very hard to discount him. I can see WWE having him win, then giving Goldberg a quick reign with the belt so he can drop it to Lesnar. Since Lesnar has dropped off significantly in 2016 a good title reign would boost him (and his value) back up.
1. Undertaker- This seems like the sure bet. Having ‘Taker be the only free agent in the match adds extra intrigue and plot to the build to WrestleMania, as he can go to either show. Throw in retirement rumors and this is the best way to make WrestleMania 33’s main event superior to last year’s.