WWE returns to pay-per-view (PPV) -- if your cable provider is carrying the event, of course -- tomorrow night (Sun., Jan. 24, 2016) live from the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida with its Royal Rumble event starting at 6:00 p.m. ET with the Kickoff show leading right on into the main course at 7 p.m. ET on the WWE Network.
Set for the card: Do we even need this? It's the ROYAL RUMBLE. And this time the WWE world heavyweight championship is on the line!
Luckily for you Cagesiders, our staff of learned wrestling blowhards is here to help figure out just how the event is going to play out with predictions for each match on the card.
Let's get to it.
WWE ROYAL RUMBLE PREDICTIONS
The Royal Rumble
Geno Mrosko: There are a few ways they can go with this but there's been nothing to indicate they plan on stopping the Roman Reigns push anytime soon. Screwing him out of his title and putting it on Triple H is one option but I don't see that being something WWE fans are going to want to put up with leading into WrestleMania. Then again, this is the Royal Rumble, it's in Orlando, and it's worth wondering if Reigns will be accepted or that segment of fans hoping to derail plans will have any affect on decision making going into the show. Then again, that didn't stop them before. Pick: Reigns
Sean Rueter: Will tip my cap to WWE for making the best out of what seemed like a lackluster year for the Rumble into something that feels fresh and even somewhat unpredictable. Having almost anyone on the likely options win to face Roman Reigns in Texas would have been a little blah. But possibly beating him to take the title, and maybe even keep him out of the main event? To paraphrase Kevin Bacon's character in one of my favorite flicks, that's f***ing interesting. Having worked so hard to inject some suspense into the match, why do I think Roman's going over? It's been a long time since we've had someone win from #1. Or win back-to-back Rumbles. The chance to put those accomplishments on his resume, along with being the only guy to ever defend his title in a Royal Rumble, is too good to pass up. Pick: Roman Reigns
Bill Hanstock: There are four possible scenarios here:
1. Roman goes bell-to-bell and retains
2. Triple H returns and screws Reigns (either by winning the title himself, or just by causing Reigns to get eliminated and saying to hell with winning -- or entering -- the match)
3. BROCK SMASH
4. The Wyatt Family makes good on their promise, prove they're no longer just empty threats and become the first ever faction to ACTUALLY use the numbers to their advantage and propel Bray Wyatt to the world title
Okay, the fifth scenario is that Daniel Bryan returns and becomes king of the world, but that's definitely not going to happen. (Aaaaaand reverse-jinx is in effect. Well played, Bill.)
Everyone seems pretty convinced that Triple H will win the match and the title, which seems a little TOO obvious at this point. And the Wyatts have been built up SO strongly over the past few weeks that it certainly SEEMS like something more serious than just the umpteenth idle threat.
Triple H vs. Reigns seems like it would have enough juice at this point to not need the title at WrestleMania, plus Triple H hasn't held a world title in damn near seven years. Now that he's the new savior and messiah of the FUTURE OF THE BIZZZZZZ, you would think he wouldn't have any desire or inclination to make a grab for the belt. Unless that's exactly what he wants us to think.
Okay, now I'm just going around in circles. I'm making my official prediction for Bray, because I think it makes sense on several levels. Get ready for Brock vs. Wyatt at WrestleMania, everyone. It'll be for the world title.
Pick: Bray Wyatt
Cain A. Knight: Vince McMahon promised that Roman Reigns would never see the return of Triple H coming, and so it seems pretty likely that Triple H is going to cost Roman the championship in this match. Ideally Triple H will just interfere in the match and screw Reigns over, allowing another competitor to shine in the spotlight and walk out as champion. But this is Triple H we are talking about; he's one of the biggest egomaniacs in the history of WWE. The idea of booking himself to win the WWE Championship in a Royal Rumble match (putting him in the same company as his beloved Ric Flair) and then revolving the main event of WrestleMania 32 around himself...it makes me gag, but it sounds exactly like one of Triple H's customary ego-stroking maneuvers. Alternatively if Roman wins, then Reigns is going to yet again receive an enormous amount of backlash for overcoming these impossible odds and being forced down our throats. If WWE wants the ending of this match to have a chance to be well-received, then someone other than Triple H or Roman Reigns needs to win. Pick: Triple H
Kyle Decker: Obviously, making a prediction is tough when you have 30 men to choose from and you don't even know who they all are. However, only 3 are really contenders to walk out with the title: Brock Lesnar, Roman Reigns, and Triple H. I don't think Triple H is going to be WWE Champion in 2016 (though I wouldn't be that surprised if it happens). The tease of a Bray/Brock WrestleMania match makes me wonder if Lesnar won't win because if he did, he'd surely hold the title until WrestleMania. However, I think they'd prefer having Roman win the title at WrestleMania instead of defending it against a challenger. If he survives the 30 man Rumble with the title, what challenge can they put in front of him that could as impressive at WrestleMania? Because of that, I think Roman will lose and will have to earn the right to face Brock Lesnar for the title in a rematch of last year's show. Pick: Brock Lesnar
Jason Martin: I've had this one in my head since Mania plans shifted and the title changed hands on television. While Wyatt was a big focus on television, that's a diversion respective to the big prize. It's to set up a program with Lesnar, I believe. I expect Bray's clan to collectively eliminate Brock. Could Reigns win? Sure, but why? His ultimate coronation is the goal, not walking in as a babyface champion defending at Wrestlemania. The debuts or the surprises could be far more fun than ever before, but none are threats. It doesn't fit. I suggest Reigns will break his own elimination record and the time record, and then lose, because that makes a hell of a bullet point. Triple H blindsides Reigns after he thinks he's won the match, whether using Vince as a distraction, a blank entrant earlier, etc. Reigns cannot see him before he's tossed out. It can't be a fair fight. Pick: Triple H
Dean Ambrose vs. Kevin Owens
Geno Mrosko: I imagine whoever loses is the guy with the bigger WrestleMania plans, and from where I'm sitting Kevin Owens is that guy. That means Dean retains here. Pick: Ambrose
Sean Rueter: Seeing as we're expecting/hoping both guys will pull double duty, I assume this starts the evening off. And I'm counting on it to follow another personal, hard-hitting Royal Rumble curtain jerker - 2014's Daniel Bryan vs. Bray Wyatt showdown. Of utmost importance there is making both guys look great, even though somebody has to win. Unlike the match two years ago, I'm thinking the babyface will walk out of this victorious. Different outcome, but same rationale. The loser is going to end up doing something bigger at WrestleMania than the winner, so might as well keep the IC strap on... Pick: Dean Ambrose
Bill Hanstock: This match could really go either way. I think both men will do everything they can to make this a Match of the Year Candidate. The only reason I'm picking Ambrose to win this one is because hopefully that frees up Owens to wrestle someone like Brock or Undertaker in a marquee matchup at WrestleMania. But I'm totally okay with Owens getting a second IC title reign, too. Whoever wins, we win! Pick: Dean Ambrose
Cain A. Knight: WWE desperately needs to find credible heels to take on the likes of Brock Lesnar and Undertaker at Wrestlemania. Kevin Owens has a chance to be one of those credible heels. It would seem strange though for Kevin Owens to walk into one of those feuds with a mid-card championship that is so far beneath Undertaker or Lesnar. On the other hand, if Owens comes up short here then it would be his third consecutive PPV loss to Ambrose, which is pretty alarming considering Ambrose's current place in the pecking order. So what's the solution? I don't really know, but I have a feeling that Owens won't be getting one of those big matches at WrestleMania. That means WWE won't have any qualms about giving him yet another loss to a fading star in Dean Ambrose, who nobody takes seriously. But while I'm not optimistic about the booking, I am definitely expecting a very strong match from these two highly talented performers. Pick: Dean Ambrose
Kyle Decker: This will likely be a great match and has potential to steal the show. And I think Dean comes out of here victorious. Even though Roman seemed cool with Jericho on Monday despite Cool Dad costing Dean and Roman a match at Night of Champions, I think they will work towards a Jericho vs. Ambrose Intercontinental title match at WrestleMania. A loss would free Owens up for whatever is in store for him come Mania this year. Pick: Ambrose
Jason Martin: I'm torn, because in my fantasy head, Sami Zayn runs out, powerbombs Owens into the ring apron, and Ambrose retains. I'm predicting a heel Champion in the Rumble, and here is where I went babyface in December. I just can't see KO doing another job for Ambrose, not if there are any major plans for him at Wrestlemania. I don't have big-time facts to back it up, but this should be a war, the match of the night, and an incredible spectacle. They will go all out to steal the show. No idea if either appears in the Rumble (loser probably shouldn't), but this is a case where an Owens win works. Dean beat him at Survivor Series. Dean beat him at TLC. Third time's the charm. Pick: Kevin Owens
Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch
Geno Mrosko: This story probably ends here, and it probably should. They've built Becky into the best babyface in the promotion and Charlotte, despite her limitations, has become a strong heel champion. That said, the time isn't right for a title change. Ideally, they would have had more time for all this and pushed this off to WrestleMania for the big title change and Lynch going over. Instead, Charlotte wins and Becky creates even more sympathy with her reaction to the loss. Pick: Charlotte
Sean Rueter: Rather than heap more praise on this program and the work everyone involved has been doing, let me give you a reason why not winning the title will be the best thing for Bex here. Probably her greatest moment in NXT came from a hard fought loss... and she was still pretty much a heel at that point! Losing clean will make Lynch more sympathetic, make Charlotte more dominant and possibly make Becky's future championship moment one of the most important things in the history of women's wrestling. Pick: Charlotte
Bill Hanstock: Storyline-wise, we want Becky to win. It FEELS right that Becky would win here. But How much more satisfying would that win be coming at WrestleMania, with Charlotte having a few month months to really dig her claws in as Queen Heel? Pick: Charlotte
Cain A. Knight: WWE has finally turned around the dreadful Divas Revolution storyline by turning Charlotte heel, pitting her against a very likable babyface Becky, and forgetting about Nikki Bella's craptastic championship reign. I think at some point that Becky will win the championship from Charlotte, but it seems a little early for that moment right now. So that means there will be some tomfoolery going on at the end of this match, perhaps at the hands of Ric Flair. Those shenanigans will either help Charlotte secure another unfair victory, or it will get Charlotte disqualified. Either way, don't expect to see the championship change hands here. Pick: Charlotte
Kyle Decker: What a great story they've been telling with these two. They've done an excellent job building Becky up as a true blue babyface here, and I couldn't be more excited for this match. To the dismay of my mark heart, I don't think the Lass Kicker is going to win the title here tonight. Maybe they'll go with a smoz finish to continue the feud, but I have a feeling Charlotte is going to get the win, likely with the help of her dirty, no good father. Pick: Charlotte
Jason Martin: I've made no bones about my love for Becky, but in this match, not only will she lose...she should lose. Charlotte absolutely should hold that title until Wrestlemania. She has yet to win a PPV match since the REAL heel turn, even if it was teased in December. Her entire character is based on arrogance due to success. Becky's chase is an excellent stopgap for Mania, whether it's Sasha waiting or a multi-woman match, or whatever. Becky won't lose clean, but she's gotten over on Charlotte several times on television and has won matches on her way into the Rumble. This has been the best built feud in the company and all participants have played their part. Becky is destined to be a bridesmaid on Sunday (and probably Fastlane), because it makes zero sense to change the title now. Pick: Charlotte
The New Day vs. The Usos
Geno Mrosko: It feels like it's about time for WWE to put the belts back on The Usos if for no other reason than to do a title change and give them a reason to book another match between the two at the next PPV.
Sean Rueter: Honestly can not think of one reason to do a title change here, and that kind of makes me want to pick Jimmy & Jey. But I won't, and I'll probably regret after a Chris Jericho distraction give us new champs. Anyway... Pick: The New Day
Bill Hanstock: Realistically, the New Day should retain with relative ease. But since these are the only two tag teams WWE is interested in spending any time on, the only way to keep this feud relatively "fresh" and keep the Usos from treading water forever is to give them another title reign. Don't worry; this could all just set up the first WrestleMania moment for the New Day. Pick: Usos
Cain A. Knight: The tag division is in its usual place where nothing matters. The matches don't matter and the tag team championships don't matter. Therefore it doesn't matter who wins this match. That unfortunate circumstance takes a good chunk of the appeal away from this match even though both teams can work a fun match. The New Day is a fascinating act more often than not, but they need more interesting opponents if they want to have a chance to make a meaningful step forward in 2016. I'll predict a championship change here so that WWE has an excuse to run a bunch of time-killing rematches on Raw over the next month or two. But it really doesn't matter who wins; the only thing that matters is whether or not Kofi will find a way to enter the Royal Rumble match to perform his annual elimination escape spot. Pick: Jim and Jey Uso
Kyle Decker: Originally, I was leaning towards the Usos here because I didn't know where New Day would go to if they won. However, with word of Sin Cara coming back soon, and my feeling that Kalisto will not regain the US title, I think they will finish up the New Day/Lucha Dragons feud that they were starting before Sin Cara got hurt. After they finish that up, they can prepare for the yearly "All tag teams in one pre-show match" Mania tradition. Pick: New Day
Jason Martin: There's still no reason, even with declining returns and Jericho nearly killing their popularity, for the New Day to lose the titles. If he gets involved, maybe all bets are off, but I hope he stays far away from the match. It'll be a good bout, but the Usos are no more over with the titles than without. A large part of New Day's gimmick involves gloating with the gold. I can't find the logic in a switch. Though I think it's possible to see a change, I can't predict one. Fun match, 12-14 minutes, and the Champs retain. If Jericho interferes, Usos go over. Pick: New Day
Alberto Del Rio vs. Kalisto
Geno Mrosko: If they wanted to make Kalisto, they wouldn't have had him lose the title one night after winning it. I'm not entirely sure what they were ever trying to accomplish with that. Considering that booking, it makes even less sense to do another title change and if they don't, it makes clear that Kalisto's win was a fluke. Pick: Del Rio
Sean Rueter: While I think Kalisto winning would be great, I'm not in favor of more hot potato with the belt. Especially not on a show where keeping the feud alive is so easy. Have Alberto win by nefarious means, then Kalisto eliminates him from the Rumble. Pick: Alberto Del Rio
Bill Hanstock: It seems WWE believes they need to give Kalisto a do-over with the chance to shine with a title win on a major show that people will be re-watching forever, rather than on a random RAW. That's too bad. If Kalisto doesn't win on Sunday, what's even the point of having a Kalisto? Let him reboot the U.S. Open Challenge, dang it! It's what we all want! Pick: Kalisto
Cain A. Knight: WWE has put together an impressive undercard on this event, and I know that because for the first time in years I'm actually excited to see an Alberto Del Rio match. WWE really should put the strap back on Kalisto and give him a big push, because he has much more upside than Del Rio going forward. But considering the dearth of credible heels on the roster, I have a feeling that WWE is going to want to keep the League of Nations at least somewhat relevant going forward. Del Rio retaining the championship probably helps that pointless cause. Pick: Alberto Del Rio
Kyle Decker: Unfortunately, I get the feeling that the Kalisto U.S. title win was a one time, very short lived thing. I hope I'm wrong though. Pick: Albert del Rio
Jason Martin: I'm still not quite over the hot potato two weeks ago on RAW and SmackDown between these two. I saw no purpose in putting the title on Kalisto just to take it off him. Why not just screw him the first time, somehow book the rematch, and put him over? I feel Kalisto as US Champion is a fun way to go right now, and Del Rio continues to flounder with the League of Nations and as a heel. But, do I have faith that they LOOK at those two guys and decide on the far smaller one? I don't, but I haven't picked a babyface on this card. Heels can't win everything, and Kalisto's win on television got a good reaction. I think they give it a chance. Pick (maybe with my heart): Kalisto
Royal Rumble qualifier
Geno Mrosko: The very definition of a meaningless match. None of these people have a shot at winning the Royal Rumble, so why care about the qualifying match to get into it? One of these men may end up being The Dumbest Ass, though, so tune in! Pick: Henry/Swagger
Sean Rueter: If Mark Henry doesn't win, I think I might actually get upset. Even if it means keeping Jack Swagger relevant, do the right thing WWE. Pick: Henry/Swagger
Bill Hanstock: Really, the big winner here is Damien Sandow, who gets pulled out of mothballs and put in an actual match before an actual pay-per-view. These cobbled-together teams are weird, but the only team that remotely makes sense as winning entry into the Rumble is the team that has Mark Henry on it. I like that they're actually taking the minimum effort to make Henry's last Rumble into a bit of a storyline. And hey, Swagger can ride those coattails, because they both love America! Pick: Mark Henry & Jack Swagger
Cain A. Knight: I have no interest in watching Jack Swagger or Mark Henry ever wrestle again, but they appear to be the obvious winners here. The recent Mark Henry interview where he teases retirement would seem pretty silly in hindsight if he didn't actually compete in the Royal Rumble match. That's too bad for Sandow and Young, who are the two guys from this group of eight that could put on the best show later on in the Royal Rumble match itself. Pick: Mark Henry and Jack Swagger
Kyle Decker: I'm probably thinking about this one than I should. Given the news that this could very well be Mark Henry's last Rumble, there's little chance the World Strongest Man doesn't get a ticket to go fight in it. The only thing that makes me question it momentarily is fact that the winning team goes on to fight in the Rumble. That has me debating the Dudleys as well because that will get two people of interest a pass instead of just one (sorry Jack Swagger). However, in the end I think there's little chance that Mark Henry doesn't get to participate in the Royal Rumble and have a couple cool moments in a year that is possibly his last. Pick: Mark Henry/Jack Swagger
Jason Martin: Dudleyz win the pre-show match and get spots in the Rumble so they can play around with the Wyatts for one more night.
Those are our predictions, Cagesiders. What are yours?