By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
These predictions were made with no help from the betting lines. I’m guessing just like you are. Join me for live coverage of WWE Royal Rumble beginning with the Kickoff Show at 4CT/5ET. Dot Net Members will hear the WWE Royal Rumble audio review hosted by Jake Barnett and I later tonight. Check out our WM Season Pass that gives new and returning members three months of access for just $9.99.
Brock Lesnar vs. Finn Balor for the WWE Universal Championship: Corey Graves stated on Raw that it was obvious that no matter how much momentum Balor can build, it will only take one F5 to stop him. I heard that line and assumed that Balor will be kicking out of an F5 and that will be the feather in his cap for this match. It’s the David vs. Goliath approach that we saw in Lesnar’s matches with AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan. It will be entertaining while it lasts, but everything points to Lesnar being built up only to lose the championship at WrestleMania. Here’s hoping Balor gains something in defeat.
Brock Lesnar retains the WWE Universal Championship.
Daniel Bryan vs. AJ Styles for the WWE Championship: The New Daniel Bryan persona has been a blast. And while I love the work of Styles as much as the next person, he’s coming off a long run as champion and I can’t see any reason why they would put the belt on him again so quickly, especially with his deal coming up in a few months. These two are a threat to steal the show with most opponents, and the odds of that happening when they are in the ring together improve dramatically. Sit back and enjoy.
Daniel Bryan retains the WWE Championship.
The 30-Man Royal Rumble: It’s amazing that John Cena’s star is shining bright in Hollywood, yet the story of him being iffy for the Rumble due to an ankle injury has generated very little buzz with wrestling fans. Seth Rollins has been working Brock Lesnar jabs into his promos for a while now. And, sure, there are report that WWE officials have cooled on him, but can we really rule out that they would float that information in hopes of making the Rumble outcome feel less predictable? Sure, his match with Dean Ambrose was a disappointment, but I’d like to think that Seth’s entire body of work trumps one lackluster outing. I see the match coming down to Rollins and McIntyre given their verbal exchange on Raw. Throw all of this out the window if Roman Reigns has been medically cleared and enters the Rumble. For that matter, throw all of this out the window if The Rock is in the Rumble and is returning for another WrestleMania match. Hey, what if they want to go Brock vs. Rock and they don’t think the needs the championship? I’d suddenly like Balor’s chances today. Or what if Rollins wins and faces Daniel Bryan in WrestleMania’s annual internet dream match to free up Lesnar for another date with a returning Reigns? What if Curt Hawkins finally ends his losing streak by winning the Royal Rumble? Have I gone too far? The point is that while Rollins strikes me as a strong favorite, there are always long shots and “what ifs” that keep the Rumble match so damn entertaining. Rey Mysterio and Randy Orton strike me as strong candidates if they are going with a Smackdown wrestler to win. My extreme long shot is Ricochet, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Aleister Black pop up in the Rumble or on Tuesday’s Smackdown. When it doubt, go with what feels like the most likely scenario.
Seth Rollins wins (unless Roman Reigns enters).
The 30-Woman Royal Rumble: Tuesday’s strong Smackdown television show dedicated some time to a segment involving Charlotte Flair and Carmella. While it could be a swerve, I suspect there will be an actual exchange between the two, meaning Flair will be in the match late given that Carmella won’t come out until No. 30. Flair has to be considered a strong favorite if they are working toward a Triple Threat between her, Ronda Rousey, and Becky Lynch, or even if they go with a singles match and either Lynch or Flair face Asuka at WrestleMania. Lynch wins this if she loses to Asuka and enters the Rumble. Lacey Evans gets the my extreme long shot pick. But I’m going with the first father/daughter Rumble winners in history.
Charlotte wins (unless Becky Lynch enters).
Ronda Rousey vs. Sasha Banks for the Raw Women’s Championship: Is this a necessary match on the road to a Horsewomen vs. Horsewomen tag match? Rousey already has issues with Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair, and now she’s facing Banks, and Bayley is part of the angle by association. It feels too soon to rush Marina Shafir and Jessamyn Duke into such a match, but I can’t rule it out if it’s something the company wants to do before Rousey goes on hiatus to start a family at some point. While creative can go with whoever they want to win, it’s hard to take Banks as a serious threat to win if only because the company hasn’t done anything meaningful with her in ages. I can’t wait until she gets to play her natural heel role and company officials try to claim that she finally elevated her game while trying to explain why she’s suddenly so good in their minds. After all, it’s the same company that drops lines about how Becky Lynch finally found herself on the mic even though she was a tremendous babyface promo long before The Man persona was born.
Roda Rousey retains the Raw Women’s Championship.
Asuka vs. Becky Lynch for the Smackdown Women’s Championship: WWE followed up a disappointing post WrestleMania run for Asuka by finally giving her the Smackdown Women’s Championship in December. She won the title in flukey fashion when Ronda Rousey interfered. It seems obvious that Lynch and probably Charlotte Flair will be facing Rousey at WrestleMania. Given that I expect Rousey to retain her title, then they don’t need the Smackdown Women’s Championship involved unless they are going for a unification. And I suppose that’s possible since they appear to be going with a single set of women’s tag titles. Even so, I’d like to think that they will do something to protect Asuka. I don’t expect Lynch to lose clean, so perhaps Rousey or Charlotte runs interference, but I’m going with the champ to keep her title.
Asuka retains the Smackdown Women’s Championship.
Sheamus and Cesaro vs. Shane McMahon and The Miz for the Smackdown Tag Titles: The Shane and Miz combo has been surprisingly fun. The mockup photos of Shane in Miz’s gear was good, silly fun, and I’d love to see them follow up by having Shane at least wear Miz’s pre-match gear. I’m not holding my breath. I think we all assume that their partnership is leading to a split that will produce a WrestleMania singles match. With two pay-per-views still to go before the big show, it would be premature to go to the turn now. The heels left the babyfaces lying on Tuesday’s Smackdown. Does that mean we’ll actually see Shane and Miz get their revenge by winning? Hell, why not?
Shane McMahon and The Miz win the Smackdown Tag Titles.
Rusev vs. Shinsuke Nakamura for the U.S. Championship (Kickoff Show): Rusev lost me when he followed up the Lana injury angle by cracking a joke about his good looks at the start of his follow-up promo. I enjoy Rusev comedy, but there’s a time and place for everything. On the bright side, Rusev and Nakamura have shown good in-ring chemistry in the past, so this should be a solid match. It’s just too bad that the company didn’t do anything to make fans care about the outcome.
Rusev retains the U.S. Championship.
Buddy Murphy vs. Akira Tozawa vs. Kalisto vs. Hideo Itami in a four-way for the WWE Cruiserweight Championship (Kickoff Show): A strong match on paper that will probably play to a half-empty stadium. 205 Live has improved in quality and we get good WWE Cruiserweight Title matches on most pay-per-views, but will WWE ever make a real move to drive more viewers to the cruiserweight show? I’d like to see them try something, yet I also hope that’s not Ricochet’s landing spot.
Buddy Murphy retains the WWE Cruiserweight Championship.
Check below for the new Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell and Will Pruett preview the WWE Royal Rumble.