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WWE Royal Rumble 2016 match card preview: The Royal Rumble Match

The Royal Rumble Match for the WWE Championship

Roman Reigns (c), Brock Lesnar, Sheamus, Chris Jericho, Stardust, Bray Wyatt, Erick Rowan, Luke Harper, Braun Strowman, Dolph Ziggler, Ryback, Big Show, Curtis Axel, Pre-show tag team winners, & 15 more wrestlers

The road to WrestleMania 32 officially begins tonight with the 2016 Royal Rumble match!  Roman Reigns is being forced to defend his WWE Championship against 28 other superstars and one Beast Incarnate.  These 30 wrestlers will spend roughly an hour trying to throw each other over the top rope in an annual tradition that is guaranteed to be exciting (as long as you forget about last year, or the year before that).

The rules of the match are simple: Roman Reigns and one other superstar will start the match.  A new superstar will enter the fray every 90 seconds, and elimination occurs when a superstar goes over the top rope and both feet hit the floor. The last man standing after 29 other superstars have been eliminated will be crowned the WWE Champion.

Here is a full breakdown of the match:

The Favorites: Roman Reigns, Brock Lesnar, Triple H

It's no secret that WWE is determined to make Roman Reigns look really really strong.  What better way to accomplish that goal than booking him to throw out 29 other superstars, including the invincible Brock Lesnar?  One thing that does seem certain is that Roman Reigns will be involved in this match from beginning to end because the entire story of this match is centered around him and his WWE Championship.  Therefore Roman Reigns is going to be in that ring for 45 to 60 minutes, and so you can expect to see him laying down in a corner for a good chunk of that time.

There is strong evidence suggesting that Roman Reigns is on a collision course with Triple H for WrestleMania 32, and so it would not be shocking at all to see one of those two men win this match.  Triple H is not advertised for the match, but Vince McMahon promised that Roman would never see his return coming.  That sounds like the perfect setup for having Triple H come out as the 30th entrant (or maybe even as a surprise 31st entrant) and taking advantage of an exhausted Reigns to screw him out of the championship.

However just because it seems plausible that Triple H could return tonight, he might not actually be one of the entrants in the match.  Triple H could always interfere in the match and aid another superstar in tossing Reigns out of the match.  That scenario would leave the door wide open for Brock Lesnar to walk right through and reclaim his WWE Championship that he lost without ever being pinned or tapping out.

Brock is an interesting participant to consider even in the scenario where he loses the match.  There is no clear opponent on the horizon for Brock Lesnar as WrestleMania 32 approaches, because WWE lacks credible main event level heels.  So if Brock is eliminated from this match, expect it to be at the hands of the man he will be facing off against at either Fastlane or WrestleMania 32.

The Best of the Rest: Bray Wyatt, Chris Jericho, Curtis Axel

Bray Wyatt is a popular dark horse candidate to win the WWE Championship tonight.  His family has enjoyed a dominant week that included the destruction of both Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns.  As a result, some people think he is now one of the favorites to win it all.  But it's hard to ignore his history of always losing to the very biggest stars on the roster when it counts the most, so that history keeps him on the periphery for now.

Then there's Cool Dad.  He says trendy things like Rooty Tooty Booty and he forgets to wear a shirt most of the time.  These are actually pretty useful skills to have in the Royal Rumble match.  Screaming Rooty Tooty Booty is guaranteed to thoroughly confuse bigger men like Braun Strowman and Ryback and place them into a state of temporary paralysis as they ponder its deep meaning.  Going shirtless will also benefit Jericho because it will disguise him as one of those returning old guys from the 1980's, increasing the probability that younger superstars show pity on him.

Finally we get to Curtis Axel, who was never eliminated from the 2015 Royal Rumble match.  This time the chains are off and Curtis Axel will look to gain redemption after being screwed out of the win one year ago.

The Surprise Entrants (minus Triple H): AJ Styles, Undertaker, The Rock, Daniel Bryan, Shawn Michaels, Ric Flair, John Cena, RVD, Kane, NXT stars, NJPW stars, Stone Cold E.T.

The rumor mill strongly suggests that AJ Styles will be debuting on WWE's main roster any day now, and so the Royal Rumble match seems like the ideal place for that moment.

Kane shouldn't really count as a surprise, but he hasn't been on television for weeks and he hasn't been advertised for this match.  Yet Kane has a rich history of creating lots of mayhem and torture in Royal Rumble matches, so it seems likely that WWE will find a spot for him.

There are rumors that this match will be flooded with many past world champions, so that opens the door for legends like Undertaker, Shawn Michaels, Ric Flair, and maybe even RVD.  Ric Flair might not seem like the best choice considering his age, but he's the only man who truly knows what it takes to win the WWF Championship inside the Royal Rumble match.  Shawn Michaels is a super long shot as well, but Ric Flair did claim that WWE desperately wanted HBK to return for this match.  The Undertaker is the most likely man here to show up, as this would be a good way to start whatever story line he has coming on the road to WrestleMania 32.

We've heard for months that Daniel Bryan can return to the ring as soon as WWE clears him.  So it's always tempting to speculate that tonight could be the night, even if in our hearts we know it's not very likely.

The Rock will in all likelihood play a major role in whatever Reigns and Triple H are doing at WrestleMania 32, so perhaps he will show up tonight to start electrifying the millions.

John Cena is injured and is several months away from a return.  But he already pulled this stunt on us back in 2008 and it earned him the biggest pop of his career when he shocked the world and returned as a surprise entrant to win the 2008 Royal Rumble match.  I'm ready for you this time, John.

WWE desperately needs some new faces on the roster, and they have plenty of talent available in NXT (and perhaps also from a raid of NJPW) who could provide a significant contribution to this match.  Samoa Joe, Sami Zayn, and Finn Balor are just a sampling of the talented NXT stars who might be given a shot tonight.  Though that's only if true legends like Road Dogg and Tatanka are unavailable.

Double Duty: Kofi Kingston, Big E, Xavier Woods, Charlotte, Becky Lynch, Kevin Owens, Dean Ambrose, Alberto Del Rio, Kalisto, Jim Uso, Jey Uso

These superstars are all wrestling on the undercard, and it doesn't seem likely that WWE will have room for many of them in the Royal Rumble match.  But at the very least, let's hope they find a spot for Kofi Kingston.  What's a Royal Rumble match without his annual elimination escape spot?

It would also be a shame if Kevin Owens missed out on the Royal Rumble match and an opportunity to butt heads with Brock Lesnar.

Everyone else: Big Show, Dolph Ziggler, Ryback, Stardust, Sheamus, Luke Harper, Erick Rowan, Braun Strowman, Pre-show tag team winners, etc.

Let's face it, these guys have approximately zero percent chance to win.  It would take a massive botch at the very end of this match for one of these guys to walk away as the WWE Champion.  But considering that last year's Royal Rumble match was a massive hour-long botch unto itself, that means everyone here still has a chance.

It's worth paying attention to the booking of Braun Strowman, who is rumored to be a candidate to face either Brock Lesnar or Undertaker at WrestleMania 32.  A lot of people are interested to see which superstar can throw this behemoth out of the ring.

Also make sure to keep your eyes glued on Stardust, who is destined to face off with Titus O'Neill for like the 247th time this month.

Big Show has a history of being the Dumbest Ass in some past Royal Rumble matches.  It's inevitable that this dummy will hoist someone over his head and play to the crowd before being eliminated seconds later.

Did you see Dolph Ziggler on Raw this past Monday?  Neither did I.  He must have been preparing extra hard for this Royal Rumble match.

Sheamus and his entire League of Nations are a joke as a a top heel act.  It's very possible that his stable could be completely wiped out by the equally inept Social Outcasts in this match.  It's also possible that Rusev or Barrett are left out of this match due to lingering injuries.

Mark Henry and Jack Swagger will likely be added to this match once they dispose of a bunch of jobbers on the pre-show.  This begs the question, what time do these superstars actually pick their numbers for the Royal Rumble match?  Did Vince McMahon just decide to keep two tiny plastic balls that he couldn't open on the side for whatever tag team won this match?

An opportunity to win the WWE Championship and headline WrestleMania 32 hangs in the balance as these 30 superstars will do everything they can to grab Vince McMahon's imaginary brass ring and then point at the WrestleMania 32 sign while flexing their muscles.  Will Roman Reigns be able to overcome the odds and defeat 29 other superstars, or does he have no chance in hell?

This is one of the most anticipated matches of the year.  So sit back, count down the clock every 90 seconds, complain on the internet when Neville is eliminated, complain even harder on the internet if Triple H wins, and root for your favorite superstars as they try to bring home the WWE Championship in the Royal Rumble match!

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