The WWE’s Road to WrestleMania begins tonight with the Royal Rumble live on the WWE Network and pay-per-view.
The Royal Rumble emanates from the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and should be an exciting event.
The top two matches on the card are the annual Royal Rumble match and a triple threat match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship between the champion, Brock Lesnar, John Cena, and Mr. Money in the Bank, Seth Rollins.
The rest of the card is, um, happening to help kill time before the two marquee matches of the evening. To help you get up to speed on the event, Ryan Gehrke and I decided to tag-team our coverage of the Royal Rumble.
We’ve got some quick match previews and our picks for each match of the evening.
Kickoff Show Six-man Tag Match: The New Day vs. Cesaro & Tyson Kidd & Adam Rose
Match Preview: Talented workers stuck in dead-end gimmicks collide with minority talented workers stuck in a dead-end gimmick stable to start thing off at the Royal Rumble. This match – like most of this storyline – is so forgettable that it has been relegated to the Kickoff Show. Cesaro and Kidd recently got the jump on The New Day by dressing as costumed “Rosebuds” with Adam Rose. They’ve all feuded, albeit in unmemorable fashion, since then. Now this is happening…for reasons. There, I think you’re all up to speed on this well-developed storyline.
Ryan Gehrke: Wikipedia lists the team of Adam Rose, Tyson Kidd & Cesaro as “The Masters of the WWE Universe”. Based on that name alone, they should win. Preferably with Adam Rose coming up with a new finishing move, the “LolliDrop”… which I assume is going to be some type of splash from the top rope. – PICK: Adam Rose/Cesaro/Tyson Kidd
Jeremiah Graves: I’d love to see Cesaro and Kidd get the win here to further their progression as a team, but as long as they’re paired with Adam Rose, this isn’t going anywhere. The New Day still has a shot to get over with some tweaks and an inevitable heel turn, so I’d expect them to look strong and walk away with a another win tonight. – PICK: The New Day
New Age Outlaws vs. The Ascension
Match Preview: This matchup was just thrown together on RAW, so there’s not a whole lot of backstory to work with here. The Ascension have waged a full-on assault on the tag teams that came before them and the New Age Outlaws are – well – one of the tag teams that came before them. The Outlaws will look to teach The Ascension a lesson in respect. The Ascension will look to send Mr. Ass and the Road Dogg back to the retirement home.
RG: Part of the problem with working Monday nights is that if I catch any of “Raw”, it’s the last thirty minutes or so. So imagine my surprise when I saw the New Age Outlaws were back and wrestling the Ascension. I imagine the Ascension treat the New Age Outlaws like I treat a brandy bottle, they’ll quickly dispatch of them, but there’ll be another team on the horizon. And quickly. – PICK: The Ascension
JG: The Ascension has been booked to look like garbage thus far and WWE put the tag straps on the Old Age Outlaws at this event a year ago before letting them hang around for a WrestleMania payday. My guess is that they give the Legion of Demolition Warriors the win here and use this as the beginning of a more coherent push that doesn’t involve the commentary team constantly burying the new heel tag team. – PICK: The Ascension
WWE World Tag Team Championship Match: The Usos (c) vs. The Miz and Damien Mizdow
Match Preview: The Usos lost the gold to The Miz and Damien Mizdow at Survivor Series and chased the Hollywood actor and his stunt double for the gold at TLC – but Miz took the easy way out getting disqualified and holding onto the gold. There was plenty of additional drama and mindgames involving Naomi, a shot at working in Hollywood, marital strife, and a whole host of other plot twists better served for daytime television. In the end, the Usos won back the gold on the RAW before Christmas and now Miz and Mizdow will try to work through some lingering issues to regain the straps.
RG: I mean, how can Miz and Mizdow not win here, right? Mizdow is earning his spot in the WWE Hall of Fame as we speak. – PICK: Miz & Mizdow
JG: I’d be intrigued if they put the gold back on Miz/Mizdow, but I think we’re reaching the breaking point for their story and we’re better served with a Miz/Mizdow loss furthing the issues between the two until we get their big breakup moment in the Royal Rumble. I’m figuring that Miz gets eliminated, waits to see Mizdow eliminate himself, only for Mizdow to switch gears and decide to do his own thing to a huge ovation from the Philly crowd.; only for Miz to slide in and cause a Mizdow elimination. – PICK: The Usos
Total Divas Tag Team Match: Bella Twins vs. Paige and Natalya
Match Preview: Um…all four of these women are on Total Divas. The Bellas – who hated each other a few months back – are sisters and blood is thicker than water. Paige and Natalya are, um, two divas who have fought a bunch in the past, but are friends now…or something. There’s really nothing at stake here. This is filler. It is worth noting that both Natalya and Paige have pinned the Divas Champion – that’s Nikki Bella for those of you who are out of the loop – thus far in the new year, so hopefully this leads to setting up a legitimate title-centric storyline for WrestleMania.
RG: Women wrestling. Not to be sexist, but I have even less knowledge of this than I do the Ascension. Bellas win. Or Paige’s team. Either way, I’ll be at a year-end party during most of the Royal Rumble. This is the match I’m most comfortable with missing. – PICK: Someone from Total Divas
JG: I have been so wildly underwhelmed with the booking of the Women’s Diva’s Division since creative screwed the pooch with the Paige/AJ Lee feud last year. The entire saga of the Bellas rivaly getting swept under the rug didn’t do the division any favors either. At this point, I’m expecting we’ll see some sort of storyline that relates to something filmed for Total Divas two months ago and a roll-up win caused by someone’s entrance music playing or a good ole distraction from outside the ring. Maybe someday the WWE will learn how to properly book women’s wrestling. – PICK: The Bella Twins
WWE World Heavyweight Championship: Brock Lesnar (c) vs John Cena vs Seth Rollins
Match Preview: This was originally slated to be Lesnar and Cena – yet again – but Rollins was mercifully added to the mix after he helped put The Authority back in power. The move was a brilliant one. The addition of smarmy super heel, Rollins to the mix has added a lot a lot to an otherwise uninspiring rematch. The winner, in theory, should be the guy defending the gold in the main event at WrestleMania 31 – barring any WWE-style shenanigans between now and then. It’s worth noting that Rollins is still carrying the Money in the Bank briefcase and could still walk away with the title, even if he loses the initial triple threat match.
RG: For the record, I HATE 3-Way matches. The idea of a three-way dance is interesting, but in reality it’s always executed as one guy outside the ring while the other two fight. Then the guy comes in and makes a save, someone else gets tossed out of the ring and etc. The WWE has done a good job of building Rollins into an actual threat by inserting him in a match where his particular kind of “resourcefulness” will be a factor. It’s very possible Rollins wins by diving onto a prone Cena/Lesnar after a double knockdown, or by cashing in his Money in the Bank briefcase. I’d like to see a WWE World Heavyweight Champion that also has the Money in the Bank briefcase, but it doesn’t happen here. Lesnar wins, hopefully by crushing Cena’s soul. Don’t worry, Cena will find a way to siphon some of Daniel Bryan’s spotlight and survive. – PICK: Brock Lesnar
JG: This might be the hardest match of the night to predict. Rollins has been booked like the best heel in the business of late and a win here, especially with the potential to cash-in post-match, would be huge for him on the road to WrestleMania. Lesnar has looked like a legitimately insane person over his last few showings and seems really, really motivated right now. Motivated Brock Lesnar is best for business. John Cena is, well, also in this match. Honestly, this match would be much better as Rollins/Lesnar, but if WWE is going the direction that I hope they are for WrestleMania 31, you can’t have that match at the Rumble without it detracting from Mania. The real wild-card here is Lesnar’s status with the company. If he is leaving the WWE after WM31, does it kill the main event at Mania to have him enter as the champion? He could lose the title without eating a pinfall at the Rumble and still look strong for a non-title WrestleMania match, but what’s the point? I think Lesnar has to go to WM31 as the champion, so he gets my pick at the Rumble. – PICK: Brock Lesnar
Royal Rumble Match
Match Preview: It’s the greatest gimmick match of all-time. The premise is simple: Two men start in the ring. Every 90 seconds the fans countdown and a new superstar enters the fray. Elimination occurs when a superstar is thrown over the top rope and both feet hit the floor. The winner is the last man standing after the other 29 superstars have been eliminated. The winner goes on to headline WrestleMania 31 against the WWE World Heavyweight Champion.
RG: This is truly the best part of the wrestling year. For the next two months, there’s a possibility of all the toys being taken out of the box as we jump on the road to Wrestlemania. Since we’re in Philly (and this isn’t an original thought), expect some ECW alumni to make an appearance. Expect Randy Orton to come back and make a run. I would even say he’ll eliminate Roman Reigns to ignite a feud between them, but even the fantasy booker inside me is resigned to the fact the favorites are Reigns and Bryan. Best bet is a final four of Orton/Bryan/Reigns/Rob Van Dam. Bryan eliminates RVD, Orton tosses over Bryan and Reigns superman punches Orton so hard Orton flies over the top rope. – PICK: Roman Reigns
JG: I love the Royal Rumble match more than just about anything else in wrestling. You can’t screw it up. Sure, you can book the wrong guy to win – but the match itself is always going to be entertaining. It’s also perfect for gauging where a wrestler is at with the crowd. The Masked Man over at Grantland just did a great piece looking back on the biggest pops in Rumble history. If the crowd is hot for someone to get over, the Rumble is the place that becomes abundantly clear. If the crowd has soured on them or – even worse – simply doesn’t care about them, the apathy toward their entrance is deafening. This year’s Rumble figures to have a lot of surprise entrants as only 17 of the 30 total superstars are known at this time. Ultimately, however, it looks like there are two viable options – Roman Reigns and Daniel Bryan. Vince McMahon and company have wanted to strap the rocket to Reigns’ back for months now and make him “the guy” with the Rumble win and a title win at WM31. Things have really clicked with Reigns the way they’d expected and Bryan’s triumphant return could signal that the tide has shifted back to where it was at this time a year ago. I’m a sucker for underdogs, so I’m pulling for Bryan to get the win and topple Lesnar at WrestleMania3 1. – PICK: Daniel Bryan
Royal Rumble Prop Bets
Entry Number of the Rumble Winner
RG: Roman Reigns
JG: Bray Wyatt
RG: Daniel Bryan
JG: Dolph Ziggler
Biggest Surprise Return
JG: Bubba Ray Dudley
RG: Randy Orton/Daniel Bryan/Roman Reigns/Rob Van Dam
JG: Daniel Bryan/Roman Reigns/Dolph Ziggler/Randy Orton
Kofi’s Ridiculous Elimination Spot
RG: Kofi lands on a guy and jumps off his body to the steps.
JG: Kofi gets launched onto a security team down by the ring to remove a superstar who refuses to leave the ring after his elimination. He then hops from one downed security guard to another until he’s close, but not close enough, to the ring. He pulls a superstar who is dangling out of the ring and uses that superstar as his finally lily pad in his hop back to the ring. The New Day feuds with whoever that eliminated superstar was for the next month.