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Monday, 8 December 2008

Who will win the Royal Rumble?

I don’t know about you, but my favourite Pay Per View is, was and will probably always be the Royal Rumble.

Armageddon will soon be upon us (sooner than you think if you believe the right-wing newspapers) and after that we are full steam ahead for the first PPV of 2009, which is the Rumble, this year emanating from Detroit, Michigan. I thought it might be a good time to start having a look at potential winners.

Soon, I’ll take a look at a potential Wrestlemania card, but let’s start having a look at who could be in a main event at this years Blue Riband show.

Firstly, we need to make an assumption on who will be the champions going into the Rumble and then Mania. This is a tricky bit, but we’ll have to take a bit of a leap of faith.

I’d say we go with the assumption that John Cena is the champ on Raw. Flagging ratings and flip-flopping champions means that they’ll fancy having Cena holding the belt for a long time. So lets pencil Cena in for one title match at Mania.

Can Edge hold his belt until Wrestlemania? He certainly can and since I think that somehow he’ll scrape the Triple Threat. It befits the Edge character as an opportunist to win out in a match like this, which is quite possibly built so that Edge does not have to down either Triple H or Jeff Hardy one-on-one, and that Hardy and Trips can beat the tar out of each other only for Edge to roll on top of one and get the fall.

Since he’ll likely be the champ running into the Royal Rumble, we’ll take Edge out of the equation and grant him a couple more title wins to take him through to Wrestlemania.

The tricky thing, then, is to project who will take on Cena and Edge at the Rumble. So tricky, in fact, that I won’t!

Instead, we’ll factor everyone in and work out the winner of the Rumble first.

Before I start, I’d like to acknowledge the fact that this kind of piece this time last year would have been completely redundant due to John Cena returning from injury. We’ll have to assume no major surprises. If that does happen, don’t blame me.

I’ve drawn up a shortlist of ten, and we’ll take them in alphabetical order, then make a judgement at the end.

Starting with the Animal, then, and this is a man who has won the Royal Rumble before. In 2005, Batista was in Evolution and started a terrific, long programme whereby he turned on his cohorts and wrestled Triple H at Wrestlemania. It was one of those storyline arcs which was milked very well in order to draw an audience reaction.

It was an example of someone winning the Rumble at precisely the right time. Batista was on fire, and his star was set to shine.

Where is he now? He is still high up there, still over, but the problem is that we have seen him wrestle just about everybody, and not particularly well either. Aside from an entertaining programme with Triple H and a series of really good matches with Taker that surpassed expectations, Batista’s matches are rarely classics.

That being said, WWE appear pretty high on him still, so he has to be seen as a contender. Batista v John Cena was thrown away at Summerslam, so a Mania main event with these two will be an anti-climax, but it is still a real possibility. With that in mind, he has to be a Rumble leading contender.

There is a significant black mark against Batista – but see Randy Orton where I’ll explain.

Big Show
The Big Show is obviously still a valuable commodity in WWE. The use of him with Floyd Mayweather will have endeared himself to many in the corridors of power no doubt, after the publicity it garnered.

He has had a mixed last couple of months. His turn on The Undertaker was too contrived and far too obvious once it began to happen. The first match between Show and Taker was merely ok, but the Last Man Standing follow-up was tremendous. It’s a shame the Casket match at Survivor Series was awful.

It has now been very nearly ten years since Paul Wight stopped being The Giant in WCW and became WWE’s Big Show. He has had a decent tenure and is regarded by many as one of the best big men ever, and as a nice man and intelligent guy.

I can see him as an early entrant who dominates only for a Batista or someone similar to oust to make them look good. But not as a winner. Sorry, Show.

Chris Jericho
It’s been just over a year since Chris Jericho returned to WWE, and despite a quite lacklustre start, he has excelled in his heel run.

His inclusion on this list is dependant on him not winning the title back before the Rumble, and indeed on him not being in the title match at the event itself. It is possible that he will be champ again, but I don’t see Cena losing the strap before then.

I also don’t really see Jericho being in a Mania main event, which is where you have to look for this Rumble winner. Jericho is the kind of guy that can have a terrific programme with someone without the World Title coming into it. Just look at the magic woven by Jericho along with Shawn Michaels this year.

I see Jericho being used in an alternate role, not to do with the title but as a secondary, entertaining role building up to Wrestlemania.

Jeff Hardy
At the Royal Rumble last year, Jeff Hardy wrestled Randy Orton for the WWE Championship. It looked as though he may just win the big one, but they held it off him. The following month he came close to winning the Elimination Chamber match (kicking out of the Pedigree as I recall) but then, in early March, was sent home for 60 days after failing a second Wellness Test.

Did they know at the time of last year’s Rumble that he was sailing close to the wind, or was it an inspired decision? Either way, both before and since his suspension, Jeff has been booked tremendously well. He is quite possibly the most over figure in the WWE.

So will they give him a chance at the big one again? For Jeff Hardy to be World or WWE Champion, I would love to think they would do it on a big stage. Wrestlemania 25 would be the perfect setting for Jeff to be victorious, possibly over Edge, to win a World title.

Whether or not they give him a World belt at this point is largely irrelevant. The bigger picture is whether he is deemed a sufficient draw to be placed in a high-up position on the card at Wrestlemania.

The Rumble has often been a match where an up-and-comer destined to win the belt has triumphed. Shawn in ’95, Rey Mysterio, Chris Benoit, Batista – maybe Jeff is next.

Randy Orton
I like Randy’s chances. I really do.

The guy has been incredible since his return (I’m talking character as opposed to wrestling) and you can certainly see him being given a run to Mania as a number one contender.

There are a few things against him though.

The first is that the Rumble winner is usually a babyface. In fact, of the 21 editions of the Royal Rumble match, babyfaces have won 16 of them, with heels winning just five times. Also, the last heel to win was in 1999, when it was none other than Vince McMahon taking the title.

Before that Austin and Michaels won the Rumble as heels, but were both within six months of a monster babyface turn and push. Potentially you could include Batista as being a heel winner, as his official face turn took place the week after he won the Rumble.

The only other heel winners were Ric Flair in ’92 (and that was to win the belt not to have a number one contender spot) and Yokozuna in ’93.

Interestingly, the website does not list a winner for 2004. How strange.

Anyway, back to Randy, and I feel that he is a leading contender, but not necessarily assured of the crown.

I mentioned at Batista’s entry that there was an extra point to make, and it applies to Orton too.

Batista and Orton are scheduled to face off at Armageddon, and I assume that if there is a clear winner then that man will be the number one contender.

Personally I don’t see Jericho taking the belt from Cena, so unless they do Batista/Cena 2 at the Rumble then they’ll want a heel to be number one contender. I suspect that would be Orton.

If Orton is in the Rumble he has a great chance. I suspect he will actually be wrestling John Cena at the Rumble, though.

Rey Mysterio
The master of the 619 won the Rumble in 2006, but although he is still a popular figure, his stock has depreciated greatly since he was given a world title run. It should also be noted that some could suggest that Rey’s title reign was possibly a capitalisation on the feeling after the death of Eddie Guerrero. I’m not saying that it is fact, but it is a possibility.

I cannot see him winning. The little guy winning the Rumble and the belt has been done once, and doing again would not be desirable. It’s a no for me on Mysterio.

Shawn Michaels.
Coming up for two years ago, HBK and Undertaker were the undoubted two favourites leading into the Rumble. Playing off of this expectation, similar to when Batista and Cena were the last two in 2005, Taker and Shawn ended the 2007 Rumble, with The Deadman eventually getting the upper hand.

Shawn would go on to face Cena in a great programme and terrific match at Wrestlemania. At WM24, of course, he wrestled in Ric Flair’s farewell match. Michaels has earned the Mr Wrestlemania moniker – so will it be franked by another Rumble win to make it a hat-trick, and therefore another Wrestlemania title win?

You know you can rely on him. The Shawn Michaels and Chris Jericho rivalry has been one of the highlights of not only the last year but the last few years in WWE, and Michaels rarely has a bad match. Should he win the Rumble, he could very well have another Mania classic.

If you assume Michaels would be kept on Raw, he is unlikely to win. If you take Jericho to be champ at Mania, you are getting a match we have seen all year. Although awesome, do we need it again?

If Cena is champ, then HBK winning the Rumble leads to a Wrestlemania 25 main event being the same as WM23. Can’t see that happening.

So if Michaels is to win the Rumble, he’d need to go to Smackdown to face their champion.

Edge? That might be good. Michaels and Edge have squared off before, but apart from DX v Rated RKO, they haven’t been opposed in a good old fashioned feud for at least four years. Edge’s character is way better now than back then, so this would be fresh. Not only that, the match would be tremendous.

I don’t see Jeff Hardy becoming champ, but if he was, then HBK v Jeff would be cool, too.

Finally, though – what about Triple H? Some would complain that it would be the same old faces on top, but consider that Michaels may not be around for too much longer. Remember this is a guy who was to all intents and purposes retired and never coming back, so for him to do what he has done the past four or five years is incredible.

Perhaps time is taking it’s toll on Shawn’s body, and before he retires he wants one more title reign and one more match with Triple H. Why not do this on the grandest scale of all? Shawn Michaels v Triple H at Wresltlemania 25? Could happen.

There are a couple of other matches I’d like to see Michaels compete in, but I’m saving a “Dream Mania Card” piece for later down the line. You’ll have to wait and see.

Triple H
I am not saying that Triple H cannot win this thing, but surely it wouldn’t be a sensible idea for it to happen? The Game does not need to win a Royal Rumble to get to the title picture, and it would be extremely short-sighted to use this as another Hunter vehicle rather than using it to help a midcarder get elevated.

Like I say, HHH winning the Rumble for the second time isn’t impossible, but it has to be unlikely, and very, very undesirable.

Similar to the man above, having Undertaker win the Royal Rumble makes little sense this year.

Firstly, Taker has had ‘streak v title’ matches for the last two years, and won both of them. To do it again would be a little tedious. Taker is surely now in a position where he could have a huge match without need to involve the title belt. He can wrestle in an attraction match with the Mania streak on the line.

Also, the Royal Rumble would be a neat place for someone to take Undertaker out of the match and set up an ongoing programme.

Vladimir Koslov

So there are your contenders.

We’ve left out Edge and Cena, which is perhaps foolish because should one or both of them lose the belts they become huge contenders. Especially Edge.

There is of course the prospect of surprise entrants, but I’d suggest that any surprise entrant will not win, as there is no-one on the level that Cena was last year waiting to come back.

(Oh, and if you want a surprise entrant no-one has mentioned............gimme a Hell Yeah!)

Looking through our appraisals of the main men, I’d come down to three men.

Orton, Hardy or Batista.

I CAN see Batista doing it. They love the big guy in Vince’s inner circle, and it sets up Batista v John Cena once again.

I love the idea of it being Jeff Hardy. The up-and-comer being given the nod has been a long theme of the Rumble. Michaels, Austin, Mysterio, Lesnar, Benoit, Batista, even Yokozuna were on the up and just waiting to be given the ball. Hardy is the obvious example of that figure on the current roster, and with ratings flagging and a shot in the arm needed, they may just take a chance on the man with two strikes.

Orton is who I would have said some time ago. My drawback with him is that I don’t see who he goes on to face at Wrestlemania. They may do Orton v Cena as a decent main event if they have one or two other attractions to beef up the card, but I don’t see it.

Reluctantly, I’m saying Batista. I don’t think that would be a great move, but it just seems very plausible to me.

God, I’d love Jeff to do it though. I hope I’m wrong with my prediction – and I don’t say that often.


Derek said...

I like your breakdown of possible Royal Rumble winners. I wonder if it will be Jeff Hardy, so he could finally win the title at Wrestlemania, since the WWE has been known to give the title to huge fan favorites for the first time at Wrestlemania, like they did with John Cena, Chris Benoit and Stone Cold Steve Austin.

I wanted to let you know that I live in Michigan, and will be going to the Royal Rumble! So I can give a first-hand account of all the action!

The Wrestling Frenzy

Ellen said...

John Cena - champion

Batista - injured

The only one who can win it on RAW
Is RKO .

HBK could win , but he does not want to .

On sd , it is totally unpredictable.

I'll say RKO wins the rumble.