I do not know who will win the Royal Rumble this year.
Let me be clear… I have previously been wrong about who would walk away with the Rumble win, but I have never had NO idea who would win. I have always had my favorites, I have always had the people I cheered for, and I have always had educated guesses based on a wrestlers position with the company and who the champion was at a given time but this years’ Rumble is developing in an atmosphere of absolute uncertainty. The ball could fall in just about any court and that lends a certain degree of excitement to what is normally one of the highlight Pay Per Views of the year… and this is quickly beginning to develop as what may be one of the best build PPV’s of the year.
I think WWE begins to build their next “era” of stars this year. It’s been obvious to many fans for several years that the WWE’s stars have become stale and the program has generally been boring for far too long. The “Summer of Punk” saw a resurgence in the traditional fans’ interest, and 5 star matches with Daniel Bryan helped restore some degree of credibility to the title but the insistence on pushing John Cena to the main event despite the lack of title also hurt the product on the whole. The program with Johnny Ace fell flat as no one bought John Cena as battling the corporate “yes man”… Cena IS the corporate yes man. Punk’s necessary heel turn provided a far better nemesis for the banner-man to fight, but Cena’s injury sidelined him and the WWE was forced to scramble and push a still-green monster to the title picture. (more on that later) The WWE has seen a number of their “go-to” guys have time catch up with them… Orton’s behavior has had him sitting on the sidelines more, Rey Mysterio’s injuries keep him from being a major force, and HHH is better served behind the scenes than in front of the camera (More on that later, too.). Taker has been doing this gig for over 20 years now, and the time has come to hang up his boots, Lesnar hasn’t brought in the dividends that the WWE thought he would, and Rock is a part-timer coming in for attraction matches. We need new blood!
Sheamus won the Rumble last year, going over the expected winner and going on to a Wrestlemania match that was so disappointing that it left him in the cold. The effect of his single brogue kick had the opposite effect than was intended. After struggling for most of the year to get over as a viable World Champion, Sheamus eventually dropped his title to the Big Show in a series of terrific matches that saw him losing one rematch bid after another. He’ll likely enter the Rumble and could go over for the second year in a row, but I just don’t think the WWE is willing to pin that level of success on him again.
His beaten Wrestlemania opponent has gone on to get WAY over the audience. Daniel Bryan, who was supposed to be a kicking dummy, wound up getting a huge pop the night after Mania when the fans let the company know what a mistake the WWE made in dumping the potential match so many were looking forward to. He went on to challenge CM Punk in a series of 4 and 5 star matches in his heel persona, his relationship with AJ giving that Diva a springboard to success in her career. This eventually resulted in his pairing with Kane, which has both men carrying the tag division back to prominence in a series of tag matches with some up and coming teams. I don’t expect Bryan to win, but he’s worth a mention here as an up and coming star.
Alberto Del Rio debuted only a short while ago and immediately rose through the ranks to challenge for the Title at various points… he even won the 2011 Royal Rumble and headlined Wrestlemania in what would become Edge’s last match. His arrogant rich heel persona is quickly giving way to a face turn that shows Del Rio developing a sense of compassion for his “manservant”, rising to the other mans’ defense at various points. I don’t think he’ll be IN the rumble, but he may challenge The Big Show and that could be a show stealing match if given the time and story it needs. This is also Alberto’s last real chance to get over with the audience that largely finds his work to be “boring” at best.
Wade Barrett… this guy is a beast and may be the best pure brawler in the ranks right now. Bare knuckle champion, a certain degree of British arrogance, and a new finisher has reinvigorated this guys career… the bad thing is that he sat out most of the year with an elbow dislocation and didn’t get a major chance to shine until his return.
My last Semi-Guy isn’t really new, but he’s been slowly climbing the ranks and he made the highlight reel in last year’s Rumble… Kofi Kingston shocked the world with a handstand to avoid elimination and went on to a terrific showing in the Rumble itself. This year has been filled with ups and downs… his Air Boom partnership with Evan Bourne dissolved when Bourne was twice suspended for Wellness Policy infractions, he went on to team with Truth but ultimately lost the titles to Hell No. He went on from there to win the IC title and has had a series of terrific matches with Miz and Wade Barrett. He recently lost the IC title, but his feud with Barrett has been terrific and has brought some prestige to a title that has fallen to footnote in the past several years.
THE NEW BLOOD:
One guy who NEEDS to make an impact at the rumble is the Funkasaurus Rex… debuting with a dancing gimmick has kind of stalled the career of Brodus Clay, but that doesn’t make him a bad performer at all. I can see him elevating his game this year, if given the chance… but the chance needs to come. There’s almost always a “monster” performer at the Rumble, and Clay could seriously fill that role though I expect the role goes to my next topic.
No new star has made a bigger impact than Ryback. If anyone is a favorite for the Rumble winner, it’s Big Hungry. Pushed in a distinctly Goldberg-ish manner, Ryback went on a brutal winning streak before finally losing to Punk at Hell in the Cell due to referee shenanigans. He’s still very green and isn’t the safest worker in the business, but that didn’t stop either Goldberg or Ultimate Warrior from gaining prominence… and Ryback is set on that path of destruction. He could very well walk away with a rumble shot at either champion and he’s being pushed to the stars already.
Then there’s the current U.S. Champion; Antonio Cesaro. A big “indie” guy, Cesaro is an absolute powerhouse and is possibly the most athletically gifted performer to debut this past year with the WWE. He’s good on the mic, he’s a great performer in the ring, but while he’s been a great mid-carder, the WWE seems hesitant to push him beyond the work-horse standard of the midcard. That’s not a bad thing as many stars have made names for themselves in the mid-card area.
The Shield are a group of three men who have a ton of promise to offer the WWE… and I’m expecting that the Rumble will be all about these three men and the kind of impact they have. They’ll be targeting Ryback for sure, Orton, and maybe some others… and they’ll also be major targets for the majority of the performers. I’m expecting that big OMG moment from these three guys… something where all three are standing alone in the Rumble ring before Ryback enters.
Finally… crooked referee and current “whipping boy”, Brad Maddox… he’ll be in the Rumble, but I expect he’ll be a comedy entry with a quick arrival before getting tossed over the top by Ryback. Maybe wrong about Big Hungry eliminating Maddox, but I don’t see this guy going too far in the rumble itself… I do, however, see Maddox eventually developing into a pretty decent performer and I’ve seen good matches with him in FCW so it’s a matter of time there. On the bad side, however… Maddox doesn’t really have his own character. He tends to try to emulate people in his promos… and it just feels forced and unnatural. But there are definitely worse out there.
HHH is largely stepping out from in front of the camera to become the new Talent Relations guy, and he’s been taking the company in a gradually different direction for years now. He’s been hiring more independent stars, he’s developed the NXT system to become more of a feeder to the WWE, and he’s become much more proactive in selling guys who are working hard to improve their game. The business is the hands of him and Stephanie, with Shane having largely stepped out of the WWE to run his own multi-media company. So what does this mean for the near future?
The Rock gets a title shot at the Rumble and I know that he and Punk are going to tear down the house… the question is whether Rock walks out with the title or not? I don’t think he does… I don’t think they give the banner to a part-timer. A lot of people are predicting that he does win, however… and that the E uses the star power of the Rock to draw ratings during the road to Mania. Problem with that theory is that both Rock and Brock Lesnar are scheduled for appearances along the road to Wrestlemania anyway. The title should be more important than a part-timer, in my opinion. It should be defended and competed for by guys who are there full time.
The rumble is nigh impossible to call… but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that The Rock wins it. Odd, yes… especially when I just said that the title should be competed for by full-timers. But it could be the best call they make if Punk goes over the Rock with shenanigans and booking a villainous Punk vs. Rock for mania would guarantee buys. On the other hand, Taker vs. Punk could also be an incredible match. But again, there’s the whole “Part Timer” theory… it would be nice to have a streak vs. streak match with Punk defending his year-plus title reign against the undefeated streak of Undertaker, but it still kind of rubs the wrong way.
Then there’s John Cena. The golden-boy of the WWE is the best full time “good guy” the company has. The matches between he and Punk have been amazing, each meeting a new level in their long-standing rivalry. There’s great chemistry between them and I think it’s the most logical head-liner to the biggest PPV of the year. I’m not a big fan of Cena, but I recognize the talent he brings to the business and that his fans are going to absolutely explode if he wins the Rumble and calls out Punk. Putting it beside a Rock vs. Brock secondary main event could blow the roof off New Jersey.