With the new year underway, it only means that the road to WrestleMania is about to kickoff, and it starts with the thirty-first annual Royal Rumble event. From the annual 30-man royal rumble, to the first ever 30-woman royal rumble match, the card for this event is as stacked as you can ask for.
The Usos vs Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin, WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship
Just a few months ago, the tag team American Alpha was broken up when Jason Jordan left SmackDown Live to join Monday Night Raw. With Jordan gone, it left a huge void with Chad Gable, who was without a tag team partner. After a few weeks of competing by himself, SmackDown general manager Daniel Bryan found Gable a tag team partner, and it was former WWE superstar Shelton Benjamin.
Ever since these two have been paired up, it was shown that the both of them work extremely well together. With both having a background in amateur wrestling, it’s showcased in their matches against other teams.
The Usos have been dominating the SmackDown Tag Team Division for several months now, and it has been an amazing reign. Ever since changing their gimmicks drastically, they have been incredible. Before they changed their gimmicks, they were bland as a team, but the change was just what they needed to stay fresh for the crowd.
Over the past month, Gable and Benjamin have undergone a change of attitude. Either from complaining that they did not have a fair chance at the Tag Team titles, or about how the referees screwed them out of winning the Tag Titles, this duo has been a roller coaster.
After numerous attempts at winning the Tag Team titles, but ultimately failing, Daniel Bryan decided to give Gable and Benjamin another chance at the Tag Team Championships; but in a two out of three falls match at the Royal Rumble.
With the stipulation added that it is going to be two out of three falls, and the fact that both teams are outstanding in the ring, this will most likely be the best tag team match of the night. The storyline is great, and the match itself will be fantastic, given that the company will be giving both teams the time to create a fantastic match. With both duos having their unique styles of wrestling, this match has a chance to go down as one of the best matches of the night.
Prediction: Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable win the SmackDown Tag Team Championship two falls to one.
Even though the Usos title reign has been amazing, it is time to give Benjamin and Gable the chance to shine, and the Rumble is the time to do it. It makes sense to give them the titles with the momentum that they have going into this match, as they have already proven they can defeat the champions.
Seth Rollins & Jason Jordan vs Cesaro & Sheamus, WWE Raw Tag Team Championship
Over the past few months, Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, Cesaro and Sheamus were a part of a heated rivalry for the WWE Raw Tag Team Championship, with both teams trading victories over each title in other matches. On December 18th, after a backstage attack by Samoa Joe, Ambrose suffered a triceps injury which kept him out of action for nine months. Without a partner, Kurt Angle paired Rollins with Jason Jordan the following week, and in the same week, they defeated Cesaro and Sheamus for the Tag Titles.
Since arriving on Raw a few months ago, Jason Jordan was quickly thrown into a storyline where he is the son of Kurt Angle. When you have a young prospect who’s father is the boss of the show, you expect Jordan to be a heel, right? Well, that’s where you’re wrong. The WWE made Jordan the babyface, and with the gimmick, he was playing the role in the wrong direction. On the brighter side, Jordan has the potential to be great in the ring, but that doesn’t matter when the company gives you a gimmick the crowd cannot get behind.
Pairing up Jordan with an experienced champion like Rollins was a smart idea, as Jordan seems to be a better wrestler when he is within a tag team, rather than when he is on his own. Rollins is a fan favorite, and has something that Jordan does not have, and that is the power to win over the crowd.
After a competitive series of matches between Cesaro and Sheamus, former Raw General Manager Mick Foley decided it would be a smart idea to pair the both of them together as a tag team. When it started, they had a rocky start to say the least. Unable to get along, it wasn’t until a segment on Raw where both went out drinking and winded up getting into a fight, and the rest is history.
With all four competitors emerging as outstanding wrestlers, all four bring different styles of wrestling. For example, Jordan enjoys using his college wrestling, which is an advantage that Rollins and he will use. On the other side, Cesaro and Sheamus both love to brawl with their opponents, and could use their strength to an advantage. Even though the SmackDown Tag Team Championship match seems more interesting, this match will be unique to watch as well.
Prediction: Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan retain the Raw Tag Team Championship
After just a few weeks, it wouldn’t be smart for the company to quickly pull the plug on Rollins and Jordan as Tag Team champions, even though it is expected that it will come to an end in the near future. Yes, Cesaro and Sheamus are the better overall duo, but it would be smart to build up this rivalry even more before deciding to give Cesaro and Sheamus the titles back. With Dean Ambrose expected to come back in just a few months, that might be a good time to pull the trigger on ending Rollins and Jordan title reign.
AJ Styles vs Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn, Handicap Match for WWE Championship
In November of 2017, AJ Styles defeated Jinder Mahal to become the WWE Champion for his second reign. Ever since winning the title, Styles have been proving that his title win over Mahal was not a fluke, defeating Mahal once again in a rematch at Clash Of Champions last month in order to retain his championship. Even though he had to deal with the Singh brothers, Styles ultimately overcame the odds.
After years of fighting and feuding with each other, the rivalry between Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn came to an end at WWE Hell In A Cell last year. During a spot in the Hell In A Cell match between Shane McMahon and Kevin Owens, McMahon was about to do an elbow drop from the top of the cell onto Owens, who was on the commentary table. Just as McMahon was about to jump, Sami Zayn came from out of nowhere, pushing Owens off of the table, leaving enough time for McMahon to crash onto the table and for Zayn to drag Owens onto him for the pinfall victory.
After Hell In A Cell, Owens and Zayn started to team up, mainly against Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan. For weeks, Owens and Zayn were complaining that McMahon and Bryan were not giving them a fair shot in the company.
During that time, AJ Styles faced off against Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn in singles action. As Styles was getting the upper hand on Owens, Zayn would interfere in the match and help Owens win the match.
After Zayn defeated Styles, General Manager Daniel Bryan decided to make an announcement for the Royal Rumble that Styles will be defending his WWE Championship against Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens at the Royal Rumble in a two-on-one handicap match. By the looks of it, Styles and Shane McMahon did not agree with Bryan’s decision.
Although this is a handicap match, this is going to be interesting. There are multiple routes the WWE can go with, and one includes actually having Owens and Zayn defeat Styles again, making them Co-WWE Champions. Unfortunately, that option is unlikely, due to the fact that the arena that is hosting the next SmackDown Pay-Per-View event is already advertising their main event, which doesn’t include Zayn or Owens as champions.
Another route that WWE can go includes Styles winning the match, due to Owens and Zayn letting their egos cost them. Regardless, the WWE community is in for a treat when it comes to this event.
All three superstars are all unbelievable wrestlers, and all three are some of the best workers on SmackDown right now. Styles and Zayn both use their speed to their advantage, while Owens uses his power to his advantage.
Prediction: AJ Styles retains the WWE Championship
With the way WWE is going with this storyline, it would be surprising if Styles lost his title on at the Rumble. The company needs to keep Styles as the champion for whatever they have planned for him at Fastlane and WrestleMania. There may be moments during the match that Styles could lose, but I see the ego of Owens and Zayn costing them.
Brock Lesnar vs Braun Strowman vs Kane, Triple Threat Match For Universal Championship
Ever since defeating Goldberg at WrestleMania last year, Brock Lesnar has dominated everyone that has stepped in his path, including Samoa Joe, Roman Reigns, and Braun Strowman. Despite being on a part-time working schedule, Lesnar is a box office attraction when he shows up on an episode of Raw.
For most of December and January, Braun Strowman and Kane have been battling it out, trying to prove which one is the true monster of the WWE. Just a few weeks ago, Strowman and Kane had a match to determine who would be the number one contender for the Universal title, and it ended in a no contest. Due to the match having no decisive winner, Raw General Manager Kurt Angle decided to name both Strowman and Kane the number one contender for Lesnar’s Universal title, forcing a triple threat match between the three at the Royal Rumble.
Once he was separated from the Wyatt Family, Strowman has slowly but surely improved drastically from what he was with Bray Wyatt. On his own, Strowman has been given the chance to show how talented he is. For the past few months, he has evolved to a fan favorite. During his run, the fans got behind Strowman, and the WWE pulled the trigger and turned him into a favorite.
The buildup for this match has been fantastic. This feud is all about three men who have pushed to emerge as unstoppable forces to becoming the top fighter on Raw, in hopes of holding the Universal Championship.
With all three viewed as some of the biggest superstars on the roster, this has potential to be one of the best matches of the night, outside of the Men’s and Women’s Royal Rumbles. If given a solid 20-25 minutes, this will be a well-told match for the Universal Championship.
Prediction: Brock Lesnar retains the Universal Championship
With all the rumors surrounding a potential Universal Championship match at WrestleMania between Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar, it’s doubtful that the WWE will have the belt change hands, unless plans have changed. The contract of Lesnar is nearing the end, and he will likely drop the title at Mania. In my eyes, Lesnar will prove his dominance once again, and it would be a shock if the company let Strowman or Kane win the title at this point in time.
2018 Women’s Royal Rumble Match, For Title Shot At WrestleMania
Over the past few years, women in wrestling have really evolved from what it was in the early 2010’s. The women of the company have really represented the industry well. Just a few weeks ago, Stephanie McMahon announced that the women’s roster is going to make history once more, with the first ever Women’s Royal Rumble Match. Both brands (aside from Charlotte and Alexa Bliss) will be competing for an opportunity to get a title shot at WrestleMania.
Leading up to this historic match, on both Raw and SmackDown, the ladies have been attempting to get the upper hand on each other in order to prove a point. Even though there has been unity among some, once that bell rings on Sunday, that unity is going to be thrown out the window.
On Raw, there have only been nine women that have already announced to enter the match. Representing Raw will be Sasha Banks, Bayley, Nia Jax, Alicia Fox, Mickie James, Asuka, Dana Brooks, Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville. Out of everyone on the Raw, the favorite to win here is Asuka. She has all the momentum going for her, and her undefeated streak could possibly carry over in this event.
On SmackDown, there have also been nine superstars that are confirmed to fight for a title shit. Representing SmackDown will be Naomi, Becky Lynch, Ruby Riot, Lana, Sarah Logan, Liv Morgan, Tamina, Carmela and Natalya. It seems difficult to say who the favorite is to win the rumble for Smackdown, but my pick is Becky Lynch. Coming back from her injury, this is the perfect match for Lynch to find redemption.
With only eighteen fighters announced in this match, it is scheduled to have thirty. The rest of the field will be filled up by returning WWE superstars from the past, NXT call-ups, and a heavily rumored name to be thrown in there is former UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion, Ronda Rousey. Out of everyone outside of the main roster, the favorite has to be Ronda Rousey.
Since this is the first time in WWE history that this event taking place, and adding in a megastar like Rousey will reel in loads of mainstream attention from the media.
Prediction: Ronda Rousey wins the 2018 Women’s Royal Rumble
This will annoy a good amount of fans, as Rousey has very little wrestling experience. With all the rumors arising, it’s almost guaranteed that Rousey will be showing up on Sunday. If Rousey somehow won, the company would be quick to pull the trigger on Rousey challenging Charlotte for the SmackDown Women’s Championship at WrestleMania.
2018 Men’s Royal Rumble Match, For a Title Shot At WrestleMania
For the 31st year in a row, the men’s Royal Rumble will be for the chance to headline WrestleMania 34. Ever since 1988, the Royal Rumble has been a yearly tradition. On a few occasions, there have been other matches that have closed the show over the past thirty-one years, but it has primarily been the Royal Rumble. Most Royal Rumble winners over the years have gone on to WrestleMania and won the world title.
There has not been a lot of build-up surrounding the Royal Rumble match this year, which actually may prove to be beneficial. With no build-up, this match is unpredictable, and the amount of routes this match could take seem endless.
At the moment, only seventeen superstars have confirmed they will be competing in the match, including free agent John Cena. From the Raw brand, there are seven, and it includes The Miz, Elias, Titus O’Neil, Apollo Crews, Matt Hardy, Bray Wyatt and Finn Balor. Out of everyone announced so far on the Raw side, the favorite should be Finn Balor.
On the SmackDown side, nine fighters have confirmed they will be competing, which includes Randy Orton, Rusev, Aidan English, Xavier Woods, Tye Dillinger, Big E, Kofi Kingston, Baron Corbin and Shinsuke Nakamura. If I were forced to pick a favorite from Smackdown, it would have to be Shinsuke Nakamura.
With the rest of the field not filled yet, there are still several superstars that may be competing in this match. In addition, don’t be shocked if Roman Reigns makes an entrance as well.
For the past few years, the winners of the Royal Rumble has been pretty obvious to wrestling fans, with Randy Orton winning last year, and Roman Reigns securing it in 2015. All in all, it’s better to leave this match as unpredictable as possible.
Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura wins the 2018 Royal Rumble
Before AJ Styles arrived in WWE, he spent some time in New Japan Pro Wrestling. During his time with New Japan, Styles had a match against Nakamura, which many are calling an instant classic. With both now in the WWE, it would be smart to have Nakamura win the Rumble and have a rematch against Styles for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania. Nakamura needs this win under his belt, and hopefully, the WWE listens to the fans and make this match at WrestleMania a reality.
Photo Credit Live Sports Times