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Sunday, 31 January 2010

Royal Rumble Preview

Tonight it's the Royal Rumble. I'll stop a little short of saying the Rumble is my Favourite Pay Per View (though I have said that before) because Wrestlemania has such an aura these days. However, it is without a doubt the best concept event ever created, and a highlight of the year.

Say what you like about WWE, but they have done a marvellous job of getting to the turn of the year and making us all believe in "the Road to Wrestlemania". We're all thinking ahead to the big March PPV, and the build to that heightens the importance of this and No Way Out or Elimination Chamber or whatever we are calling it now.

The trouble is with me going into this show is that I start fantasy booking the next three months, and getting way ahead of myself. I've chosen a winner of the Rumble partially based on a storyline I'd like to see, but also as a sort of hedging of bets.

That I'll come to in due course. Let's get a couple of undercard matches out of the way.

ECW Title - Christian v Ezekiel Jackson
I'll be honest, I'm not expecting a classic.

On the one hand here, I'm seeing this as a good opportunity to take the belt away from Christian, since Big Zeke is a credible guy to have beat Christian, possibly with a little assistance from William Regal. I think Christian is destined for bigger things than ECW, is a lock to go to Smackdown in the next draft, and probably ought to be in the Money in the Bank match at Mania.

On the other hand, if you take the belt off of him, the ECW title picture loses instant credibility. People who don't watch ECW will likely have forgotten who Ezekiel Jackson is (He's the big scary black dude who used to be bodyguard for Kendrick, by the way) and with ECW ratings tanking, he might not be the man to have at the helm.

How about a screwy finish to this match? I can see an old fashioned double pin or something leading to the belt being vacated. That's an out for Christian to lose the belt without having to lose a match, and the "new ECW" crowning a new ECW champion. Who that'll be I have no idea.

Prediction: Christian loses the belt, if I'm sitting on the fence. Whether that is clean to Zeke, via interference from Regal or a disputed ending, Christian's run with the belt is up.

Michelle McCool v Mickie James
Every critic, his dog, his nan, his next door neighbour, his next door neighbour's nan, his next door neighbours nan's milkman, and the bloke who the milkman met in the pub the other night all think Michelle is going over because Mickie is in the doghouse. Everybody seems to think this whole angle is shockingly demeaning.

Is it not just a wrestling angle? Is it not just an old fashioned 'heels are bullies' storyline? And is it not finally an angle for the girls to get hold of rather than just shitty number contender matches leading to three minutes every two weeks before the champion beats Alicia Fox or someone in a shockingly crappy match?

Many of you will know that I am a strong critic of Michelle McCool, and I still think she is overrated in the ring. But I'll give her this; she has been very effective as the bitchy girl in school that no-one likes, and they always have a toady little friend sucking up to them too, don't they?

I've enjoyed this storyline a lot, because it's shown strong heel qualities, build up sympathy for a Babyface, and also included other girls. Layla as the sidekick, Maria last week sticking up for Mickie, and a conflicted Beth eventually siding with the heels.

The thing is, though, good storylines need good payoffs. I'm holding out for one here. Mickie MUST win this match. Wrestling, at the end of the day, ought to play out in favour of the babyface at the end. Especially in areas of the show which isn't selling tickets. No-one is buying this show tonight to see what happens to the Women's title, but every match that is on the show, both in episodes and on a PPV, must play it's part as a cog in the wheel. There is an opportunity for a really big babyface moment tonight, for an over female babyface (you don't hear anyone say that very often) to beat a heel who deserves her comeuppance.

Prediction: Mickie James. Please.

Right, back to the point in hand, which is realistically who is going to win the Rumble, and I'll address this here because the winner affects the two title matches.

Royal Rumble Match
*You can go back a couple of posts to see a more detailed (some would argue too detailed) analysis of Royal Rumble contenders.

Basically, I believe there are three contenders, with possible arguments for three others, but weak ones. The three favourites have to be Cena, Michaels and Triple H. The other three are Batista, Punk and DiBiase.

I'll start with the weak ones. Batista is a contender so that he can a) face Mysterio if Rey beats Taker. That would fit with HBK costing Taker the title, either now or at the next PPV, allowing Rey to get the strap. That, though, wouldn't help Rey in particular, and Rey and Batista have enough of an issue that if they want that match at Mania, they can do it anyway. The second way for Batista is that Cena could win the Raw title in the Elimination Chamber, and Batista chooses to face him. I think both matches can be achieved without Batista winning the Rumble, though.

Second weak argument is CM Punk. The man is on a roll right now, and winning a Rumble would give his whiny, self-righteous character more to brag about. It would also fit his character, having won two Money in the Bank matches, to have a title shot through drawing a late number and capitalising on a personal issue between other. Like McCool, Punk now has an effective, heatseeking character who people might just pay to see get beat. The drawback, though, is that he hasn't been given the credibility to hang with the elite tier of WWE (Who I'd say would be Cena, Orton, HBK, Hunter, Taker and probably Edge) and he doesn't have an obvious opponent, although you could again argue the idea of Shawn costing Taker so that Rey has the belt, then go Rey v Punk.

Final weak shout is Ted DiBiase. Although you could argue a case for Cody Rhodes, it's generally assumed that Ted is the longer term prospect as a major player. Personally I don't believe he has the skills to be a top babyface, but then neither did Orton, and he's done ok since he went back to his heelish ways a few years back. DiBiase is only a contender if Orton wins, as DiBiase v Taker, Rey or Sheamus makes no sense. While on one hand it would be very cool for an outsider to win the Rumble, as a prediction it is deeply flawed, because WWE like to have a marquee winner, generally. It probably isn't Ted's time.

The big three all have a good argument for. Shawn Michaels' is rather obvious. He may need to win so that he can wrestle Taker at Mania. And it could well happen. Although it may seem too telegraphed, WWE aren't known for subtlety or nuance, and it certainly would be a popular choice. It'd be fun TV, too, watching Shawn trying to protect Taker's title before Mania. It may be too obvious, but then it might be a double bluff.

John Cena should never be discounted when thought about in conjunction with a big match. His particular route to Mania, should he win the Rumble, could take many forms. Maybe he could swerve us all, including HBK, and go after the Undertaker. They could follow through with this, do Cena v Taker and use it to facilitate the DX break up. What if we came down to the last three, Shawn and Hunter fight, and Cena dumps them both. Cena heads for the Deadman and DX explode at Mania, a la the Mega Powers. I'd absolutely love this outcome, and I think it's what I would book, but it does leave too many other questions, especially re: Sheamus and the WWE title.

Another route could also be Cena choosing Taker, but Shawn costing Taker the Chamber match, and Batista winning, giving us Cena v Batista for the title, Shawn v Taker as a grudge affair and still leaving room for Trips v Sheamus and Orton v Ted. This could lead to a few weeks of teasing various combinations, and also a tense stand off between Shawn and Cena, which could give a really nice Raw main event at some point. Finally, they could simply go Cena v Sheamus for the easy title match. The problem with that is, assuming Shawn v Taker, that you are left with Hunter being a spare wheel, unless he wrestles Batista.

All these combinations are giving me a headache......

Finally, we come to my pick, Triple H. He's my pick because I feel he is due a big win as a single again, and like Cena they can go many ways with him. You could have Hunter declare he wants Taker. I'd love that, as it would really piss off the HBK character and lead, you'd feel, to the inevitable DX break-up, especially if Shawn forces a title change, taking not only the belt from Taker but the Taker match from HHH. Hunter could then have the option to switch to Sheamus or go with the winner of the SD title, which may well be Batista.

Or, they can go the other way, and have Hunter tease going after Taker, but choosing Sheamus, and having the Triple H character say that he is doing it so Shawn can still chase Taker.

Ultimately I'm choosing Hunter over Cena and because I think there is more they can do with Hunter in that position. But it's very open. If any one of them wins there is a multitude of ways they can go in storylines.

You could complain that it's bad that only three out of thirty guys can really win, but I'd argue that some years it's only two, and others only one. At least we have three strong choices.

So then, the title matches.........

Sheamus v Randy Orton
It doesn't really make any sense for Orton to win this. I know it seems obvious to say that Cody/Ted, or just Ted, costs Orton the match, but sometimes obvious = sensible. It keeps the belt on Sheamus, and Sheamus v Hunter or Cena is more sensible than either of those babyfaces against Orton, which we've seen before.

If Ted costs Orton, Randy can go into a chamber to try and get back in the picture, while Ted v Cody can be booked down the card, if Ted makes the break on his own.

Prediction: Sheamus. Because it just makes sense.

Undertaker v Rey Mysterio
There is an issue with the positioning of this match, because if Rey is to win, then it ruins the Rumble for Michaels. If you are booking Rey to go over, then this match has to go on after the Rumble. I don't want that to happen, and I suggest WWE don't either. But if the Rumble isn't on last, expect Rey to win.

I don't think he will though. I think Taker has to win, although I think the match itself will be built around Rey having a million near falls but not quite getting there. Taker winning makes all three of my main picks, Cena, Hunter and Shawn, much more viable options.

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