By Jason Powell
The Prowrestling.net Live audio show returns today at 2CT/3ET. John Moore and I will be taking your phone calls on the Royal Rumble and the NXT Takeover event. Listen live at Blogtalkradio.com/prowrestlingdotnet.
The 30-man Royal Rumble match: This is the most anticipated Rumble match in years. WWE finally loaded up the greatest gimmick match ever created with tons of star power and realistic potential winners. WWE got through all those weeks of television without giving into their inclination to foreshadow the winner to the point that it’s obvious. Here’s hoping they even went so far as to leak a red herring winner for the gambling sites that have Randy Orton listed as the favorite. Randy Orton?!? I’m not doubting the oddsmakers, I’m questioning the sanity of WWE’s braintrust if they really think this is a pleasing outcome. Orton in the Wyatt Family is passable mid-card fodder on Smackdown. Does anyone really have the desire to see that program suddenly become championship material? While I’m certainly not ruling this scenario out, it does nothing for me. I am so down on the idea that I can’t prognosticate it let alone endorse it. I’m cool with Undertaker, Brock Lesnar, Bill Goldberg, Sami Zayn, Chris Jericho, Braun Strowman, Samoa Joe, Shinsuke Nakamura, Finn Balor, or several other potential winners. This isn’t a “Daniel Bryan wins or we riot” type of year. There are plenty of intriguing scenarios, but Orton winning simply is not one of them. I mentioned that I can’t even bring myself to predict an Orton win, so if I’m not going with my head, then I’m going with my heart.
Undertaker wins the Royal Rumble.
AJ Styles vs. John Cena for the WWE Championship: Styles and Cena spent a lot of time badmouthing one another on the go-home edition of Smackdown Live, but they didn’t spend much time talking about the actual championship. For that matter, they also didn’t dedicate much time to teasing the possibility of Cena tying Ric Flair’s record for most title reigns. Thus, my guess is that Styles somehow escapes with the championship. The big question is who ends up holding the title coming out of Elimination Chamber, but we’ll tackle that in a couple weeks. Here’s hoping it’s Styles and he ends up defending against Undertaker or a new roster member such as Samoa Joe or Shinsuke Nakamura or even mega surprise Kurt Angle at WrestleMania. If we get any of those opponents for Styles, the place will go banana (tribute to Rumble creator Pat Patterson).
AJ Styles retains.
Kevin Owens vs. Roman Reigns in a No DQ match for the WWE Universal Championship with Chris Jericho in a shark cage: WWE deserves a lot of credit for the mystery they’ve created for the Rumble match and both of the major title matches. I don’t have a strong feeling about either championship match and the Rumble can be a crapshoot. The addition of the shark cage is brilliant. We’ve seen Owens vs. Reigns so many times that I’d lost all interest, but the shark cage gimmick immediately grabbed my attention thanks to the wonderful selling of Jericho on Raw. They drifted away from his night one fear of heights, but it should be back in full force tonight. As for the outcome, I don’t believe Owens goes to WrestleMania as champion unless Jericho wins the Rumble. My guess is Owens somehow gets through this match as champion, meaning he drops the title at Fastlane, and then faces Jericho for the U.S. Championship at WrestleMania.
Kevin Owens retains the WWE Universal Championship.
Charlotte vs. Bayley for the Raw Women’s Championship: After months of wheel spinning, WWE finally buckled down and established Bayley as a lifelong fan who is living her dream of wrestling in WWE. The verbal exchange with Charlotte was good, and the sit-down interviews really cemented that. However, this isn’t the right time for her to win the championship. Tom Petty tells us that the waiting is the hardest part, and in Bayley’s case it’s very necessary. Her character has to go through several setbacks and obstacles so that when she finally wins the championship the payoff is huge. Plus, WWE clearly has something in mind for Charlotte by playing up her unbeaten on pay-per-view streak and dubbing her the Queen of Pay-Per-View. Here’s hoping it’s a date with Ronda Rousey. Perhaps that part is wishful thinking, but this still shouldn’t be Bayley’s night.
Charlotte retains the Raw Women’s Championship.
Rich Swann vs. Neville for the WWE Cruiserweight Championship: The best hype for this match came in the form of a great video package that aired on the penultimate edition of 205 Live before the Rumble. They never found time to air it on Raw, but hopefully we’ll see it again during the six freakin’ hour show today. Neville is going to be champion. Whether they do it here or save it for a later date, Neville is going to be the champion. 205 Live needs a heel champion to defend against the likes of Gran Metalik, Akira Tozawa, Cedric Alexander, Swann, Perkins, and in a huge showdown with Austin Aries. Pull the trigger today and establish Neville as champion with plenty of time before WrestleMania.
Neville wins the WWE Cruiserweight Championship.
Alexa Bliss, Mickie James, and Natalya vs. Becky Lynch, Naomi, and Nikki Bella (Kickoff Show): I would put James over Lynch to establish that feud. WWE may feel the need to deliver a babyface win depending on what they do in the other Kickoff matches. The Elimination Chamber event is only a couple weeks away and it looks like they are trying to establish Naomi as a challenger to Bliss. An easy way to do that is to have her pin Bliss in this match.
Becky Lynch, Naomi, and Nikki Bella win.
Sheamus and Cesaro vs. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson with two referees for the Raw Tag Titles (Kickoff Show): The two referee gimmick is a recipe for overbooked, split decision silliness. If WWE officials want this feud to click then they have to know that overbooked finishes are not the key. Creative should get out of the way and let these teams work the type of physical matches that make both teams great.
Sheamus and Cesaro retain the Raw Tag Titles.
Nia Jax vs. Sasha Banks (Kickoff Show): This should be the easiest match result to predict. Nia is still in unbeatable monster mode and needs to stay there. Sasha has the knee injury excuse for losing. There’s no need to get cute.
Nia Jax wins.