And once more we embark upon Wrestlemania season. The Rumble marks the beginning of what I like to think of as WWE’s playoff season. After a full year of carefully controlled storylines and character work, the stuff that’s working gets showcased in an effort to make the big show the greatest night in wrestling. And it all starts here. Now, the last few Rumbles have left much to be desired, but that doesn’t mean that the trend needs to continue here. And, with the belt on the line, things can certainly get interesting this Sunday night. The Rumble will likely set the tone for Mania season, so let’s hope they get off to a good start.
Intercontinental Championship Match: Dean Ambrose vs. Kevin Owens
The moment that these two were put together in an IC feud, I knew it was going to be great for business. Both Ambrose and Owens are masters at pulling the crowd into the show and bringing everyone to their feet. A Last Man Standing match serves to showcase the capabilities of both performers and really suits the mood of the feud. Do I think that Kevin Owens will take back the belt? Not really. With Roman likely losing the title on Sunday and the New Day unlikely to let go of the tag straps, Ambrose stands as the only babyface champion going forward (with the exception of Kalisto, who really isn’t in the same stratosphere as Ambrose just yet). The people love Ambrose, and I think the IC belt is best on him for the time being, especially with Owens likely looking elsewhere, feud wise, going into Mania.
What I think will happen: Ambrose will retain the IC strap.
What I hope happens: This match really showcases the talents of both competitors, who are likely pushing very hard against the glass ceiling right now.
United States Championship Match: Alberto Del Rio vs. Kalisto
So I’ll be the first to admit that the booking of this match had me confused. Why give Kalisto a win over Del Rio, give him the belt, then have him lose it on his very next match? The win on RAW was a huge surprise and, we thought, heralded a change in affairs in the Creative office. Unfortunately, just like with Nikki vs Charlotte in September, the plan seems to be to get that same feeling at the PPV, which doesn’t really work because the shock is gone. We can see a Kalisto win coming from a mile away, especially considering how lackadaisical Del Rio has been since coming back. The smart booking was certainly on Cena to win back the strap, but as I noted in my predictions I think he’ll get one more run with the Big Belt this year, so that’s likely out of the picture. I’m all for taking a risk on a budding new talent, so here’s hoping that Kalisto is pushed as a bonafide superstar.
What I think will happen: Kalisto will overcome Del Rio and become a two-time U.S. champ.
What I hope happens: This match doesn’t go as roughly as their first few meetings, which were sort of train-wrecks.
Divas Championship: Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch
Well it only took eight or nine months, but it looks like we finally be seeing some payoff from the Divas Revolution. Becky and Charlotte have been built really well into a believable feud that actually has more going for it than the typically “jealous, crazy, frenemies” trifecta that we’ve had to deal with all year. My first thought was that Charlotte would retain, again, since she’s really starting to run as a heel, but then I considered the current divas landscape and I began to change my mind. Let’s look at the breakdown: for heels we have Charlotte, the Bellas, Paige, Tamina, Naomi, and Sasha Banks. For faces, we have Becky and Natalya (who is only now returning to active duty). Unless that belt changes hands, the options going forward look pretty limited. This doesn’t definitely mean that the belt is changing hands, but it may not be the worst idea.
What I think will happen: Charlotte will retain so that the title can change hands at Mania.
What I hope happens: Becky pulls the upset and walks out as Divas champ. The Divas Revolution has been abysmal and it is time to shake things up going into Mania season.
Tag-Team Championship Match: The New Day vs. The Usos
Let’s be honest here: The Usos are not the draw they were last year. Once again we’ve seen the tag-team division become an island of misfit toys when compared to the bright-and-shiny singles division. However, The New Day are largely the best part of WWE right now and have managed to break free from the death-knell that is the tag-team division, mostly by being featured prominently in the singles-storylines (remember when they were best-buddies with the League of Nations all of a sudden?). Do I think that the New Day will lose the belts just to make the Usos look good? Nope, not a chance. Would I put it past Creative to pull a stunt like that? Definitely not. Again, just look at the Del Rio/Kalisto fiasco. Smart money is on New Day, in my book, so that they can wrestle the Dudley’s (again) going in to Mania. Only then will they drop the titles.
What I think will happen: The New Day will continue their dominance over the tag-team division.
What I hope happens: The Uso train starts a rolling again. They’ve lost a ton of momentum since getting back in the game.
Royal Rumble Match
and stables in WWE right now. The League of Nations, The Wyatt Family and the Social Outcasts take up nearly half of the roster slots available for the match. Factor in a few jobbers (Goldust, Zack Ryder, Tyler Breeze) and the inevitable surprise guests (Razor Ramon please) and the field is actually pretty limited in terms of legitimate contenders. We’ve got three on the docket: Roman Reigns, Brock Lesnar and Chris Jericho. All due respect to Jericho, but unless you’re the Undertaker no part-timer is going over Brock. I think Jericho is more likely to go into an IC feud with Ambrose to try to bring his record up to 10-time champ. Plus they did have an altercation back at Night of Champions (did you forget Creative? Because I certainly didn’t). To me, if it comes down to Brock vs. Roman, Brock takes it. Mania almost always has a face chasing for the strap, and Brock vs. Roman 2 at Mania, without the safety-net of a Money in the Bank cash in, is an easy story to tell. There are, on the other hand, a few elephants still sitting in the room. The rumor mill has been spinning for weeks about Roman vs. Triple H at Mania. And while I can’t argue about it as a draw I, personally, hope that Triple H doesn’t walk away with the belt. If you watched the Monday Night War (which you should), the ongoing claim-to-fame from every WWE employee was that their success came from making new stars. According the them, WCW failed because they relied too heavily on older performers who had overstayed their welcome. Unfortunately, we’ve seen this trend in WWE over the last few years. Remember when the APA, The Outlaws and a few others absolutely wrecked The Ascension and killed all of their believability as top-tier contenders (again, I remember everything!)? If Triple H wins the Rumble, that message will be spread across the entire roster. These are the WWE Superstars ladies and gentlemen! Look how great they are! But don’t forget, they’ll never be as good as those before them! Perhaps I’m being a little paranoid and hyperbolic, but it is hard to get invested in new talent if they keep getting steamrolled so that 50+ year old former performers can still feel like it’s the good-old-days. Finally, there’s Daniel Bryan. Will he be back? It looks like no. Would it be great if it we’re all a work and he does make a surprise entrance around the 25+ mark? Absolutely. Same goes for recent signee AJ Styles. I’m not holding my breath in either case, but it would make for a pretty interesting Rumble.
What I think will happen: Despite the betting odds being on Triple H, I am going to stick with my 2016 predication and call a Brock Lesnar win.
What I hope happens: Again, I hope Triple H doesn’t win. I’m sure even he can see how that wouldn’t be best for business. Remember what happened when Batista won?