Tonight sees World Wrestling Entertainment present the 26th edition of the Royal Rumble. It's the official beginning of the "Road to Wrestlemania". Yes, there are matches on the card outside the 30 (and once 40)- man main event spectacle...but rarely does anyone remember them. Pro wrestling's biggest advantage over actual sports is being able to plan feuds and matches to best optimize money-making potential. The irony here is the intrigue of the rumble is not knowing the who, when, what or where of it all, yet it's all carefully planned and booked.
WHO: Who will participate? There will be many familiar current stars looking to make their mark in this year's event, but the WWE loves to turn up the nostalgia factor a notch and bring back a handful of former greats in hopes of getting the biggest reaction out of the fans and keeping them on the edge of their seats. Batista came back last Monday. Hogan and Jericho have been mentioned in rumors as well. Undertaker seems to coincidentally resurrect this time each year, yet there's almost always one surprise entrant no one saw coming. A second who will be saved for the end, because there is only one winner.
WHAT: What will happen exactly? No one knows, outside of those booking it and the man himself, Vince McMahon. It's always impressive how this match can be booked to the thirtieth entrant and coordinated like an aggressive and athletic ballet of sorts. There are all sorts of spots to be had thanks to the unknown amount of wrestlers in the ring at any given time, and creative ways stars can be eliminated/saved.
WHEN: When will stars enter? Outside of CM Punk entering at one, the unpredictability is the rumble's biggest attraction. This provides for stars to be in the ring for very long or short periods of time. It's a mass of bodies going at high rates of speed with fans "ooo-ing" and "aaaah-ing" like kids in a candy shop.
WHERE: Where will the winner enter? The best spot it seems to be mathematically is last (30). But that does not always guarantee that entrant a win, as past rumbles have shown. The WWE always seems to mix it up here, with past winners going wire to wire for over an hour to win. Other times, an entrant can come in late and mix it up for a few minutes before securing their title shot at Wrestlemania.
Now comes the fun part: predicting. There are different things the Rumble is known for, and why the fact it's only once a year reminds all fans of how special it truly is. Here goes:
SILVER: Antonio Cesaro
BRONZE: Evan Bourne
Past highlights have included John Morrison and Kofi Kingston to find creative and thrilling ways of staying alive, refusing to let their two feet touch the floor, and re-entering the rumble. Sometimes it's cheesy, but other times it's just awesome. This year I give it to Ryback, who has been in the doghouse lately, but has been turning a corner in his character. He has a stiff style, but the power is there. Cesaro will look to clear the ring with multiple spins, and there's an outside chance of a returning Evan Bourne, who fans have not seen in quite some time. I have no idea exactly what he'd do, but the high flyer is known to impress even in losing efforts.
Most Shocking Entrant:
SILVER: Jeff Hardy
Reports indicate WWE and Sting have FINALLY agreed to a deal, after years in the making. Could he debut tonight? The chances are slim, but as they say- there's still a chance. Jeff Hardy would gladly be welcomed by WWE, who currently thrive on old names. Another run in the WWE might be an interesting thing for Hardy and fans alike. The Undertaker always seems to come back this time of year as mentioned above, yet it is no given. If he did, fans young and old will all act like little children- giddy with delight.
Yeah, I Know Award
GOLD: Chris Jericho
This award goes to the most obvious return of the night. Jericho loves to collect a check each year and has failed to evolve his character for almost four years. His last few runs have been less than memorable, and while some may "mark out" for the Ayatollah of Rock and Roll-ah...count me out. Sheamus is almost in the same breath, except at least Y2J has an impressive resume to back his stagnation up. Forgive me for not being a fan of Sheamus, but his character's grade-school level IQ and overall bland personality prevent me from ever anticipating anything involving him. Lastly I tossed in HHH here. It would be no surprise at all if he took off his suit and tie for his trunks, just for the sake of one more crowd pop.
Thanks for Coming Award:
GOLD: Zack Ryder
SILVER: Wade Barrett
BRONZE: Heath Slater
Every year we see a star come in and leave before we realized it. Fans out there will still chant "woo, woo, woo" but might not get the whole phrase out before Mr. Strong Island is tossed out. Barrett has been appearing on TV as a moral compass of sorts, ridiculing superstars and fans for their bad habits. He can talk a big game, but doubtful he'll back it up in the rumble. Heath Slater and 3MB are jobber fodder, and can always be counted on to take it on the chin.
GOLD: Daniel Bryan
SILVER: CM Punk
BRONZE: Seth Rollins
This goes to the star who will spend the longest amount of time in the ring. The fans clamor for Bryan all the time. The more Bryan, the better. He has the same ability in the ring, and way more positive heat than anyone on the roster. Punk is included here as his storyline as the first entrant by way of The Authority could cause him to rebel and remain in the rumble for an extended amount of time. Rollins is a worker, and could really make a statement to those who overlook him compared to Reigns and Dean Ambrose.
The Ringclearer Award:
GOLD: Roman Reigns
SILVER: Antonio Cesaro
This goes to the star with the biggest impact on the rumble. They may be in it for a twenty minutes, or two minutes. But the fact of the matter is how much they affect the main event in their amount of time, measured by eliminations. Reigns' spear is the most lethal finisher in the WWE these days- sorry, Randy. He can accelerate and launch himself at any given moment. From there, it's easy pickings. Cesaro will look to impress with his feats of strength and if his upped TV promo time as of late is any indication, WWE will expect big things from him sometime soon. 'Taker's effect if he arrives would certainly bring eliminations. It's all a matter of if he'll show up.
GOLD: Daniel Bryan
BRONZE: CM Punk
It's no secret Bryan has been the fan's favorite wrestler for the last year or so. Whether it was teaming with Kane, wrestling Cena, feuding against HHH and Randy Orton, or teaming with the Wyatts, the fans could not stop chanting "YES! YES! YES!" If the WWE chooses to go with another star, it will be one of the biggest mistakes they have ever made. Heat like Bryan's has to be capitalized on as it does not come often. Batista returning the same week and winning might not be very logical, but WWE would love to feature Dave against his former Evolution mate and current WWE WH Champ, Randy Orton. CM Punk has been mentioned as a possible winner, but I foresee him being bounced by the Shield as payback from his 3-on-1 win over them, as well as him fighting HHH at Wrestlemania 30. A match two and a half years too late.
The New Age Outlaws vs The Rhodes: The Rhodes. TNAO aren't so new anymore, and the fans seem to enjoy the brothers as champs. Let them retain and drop the belts at Mania to a more deserving team, maybe even the Usos.
Big Show vs. Brock Lesnar: Brock Lesnar. Lesnar has to get back to his ways of "badass-ery". He is a legit scary looking dude who doesn't take any sh*t, and shouldn't. Let him destroy Show with a wicked F-5 and move on to bigger and better things for 'Mania. This feud should've stayed in 2003.
Daniel Bryan vs. Bray Wyatt: Daniel Bryan. But in a figurative sense, both will be winners here. Bryan will help Wyatt look like a star and have a solid fifteen to twenty minute match. Bryan will win, end the feud and look on the bigger and better things in the rumble.
John Cena vs. Randy Orton: Randy Orton. If only because of the Dave/Orton rumors. But Bryan still needs to get his comeuppance on the Viper, and Cena doesn't need to belt to be popular or sell tickets/merchandise. Like Show/Lesnar, I never want to see these two matches up ever again in a singles match.
People who predict things hope to be right so they look smarter than others, when it's all just a matter of research mixed in with a little luck. Because knowing how the Royal Rumble would end ahead of time would take all the fun out of it.
Like it? Love it? Hate it? Let me know @SeanNeutron