by Daniel Johnson
Editor’s Note: Justin Watry is a wrestling columnist. He can be followed on Twitter @justinwatry. Kyle Childers/Hawk Jefferson is the author of the Hawkeye’s Hangout series on The Johnson Transcript and is the co-host of the Ruthless Aggression Podcast, which can be found on iTunes, Sticher and Podbean here, here and here, respectively. Childers can also be found on Twitter @hawkjefferson.
The New Day vs. Adam Rose, Cesaro, and Tyson Kidd in an elimination match
Daniel Johnson: Believe it or not this WWE Royal Rumble 2015 pre-show match has me pretty excited, but don’t get me wrong. Most, if not all of these guys, are going no place fast. The exception is Tyson Kidd who has enjoyed a bit of a career resurrection lately while Cesaro and Adam Rose flounder. Meanwhile The New Day’s push wasn’t even alive yesterday never mind tomorrow. Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods and Big E each have some strengths as in-ring performers and hopefully they get to showcase them in this match. As long as this bout doesn’t go too long and the pace of the eliminations is kept loose, but logical I’m expecting a pretty fun pre-show bout. Although Kidd is the only one with a career on the upswing I’m expecting The New Day to win. Perhaps Big E will be the sole survivor and last eliminate Cesaro.
Kyle Childers: I’m kind of sad that these guys are the pre-show match. I’m not huge on The New Day gimmick, but the actual group itself is talented, as are Kidd, Cesaro and Rose, but WWE has no idea what they’re doing with any of them. I guess a New Day wins because it’s the pre-show and they’re faces.
Justin Watry: Apparently, this is an elimination tag team match slotted for the pre-show of the WWE Royal Rumble pay-per-view. Initially, I was pretty excited to see what WWE had in store for The New Day. Not really a Kofi Kingston fan, but Big E and Xavier Woods have both shown flashes of potential. Why not give them a shot? Sadly, I am still waiting. Dressing in blue and always smiling is not what I consider entertaining. Here is to hoping this is all a long con building them up as a heel stable. On the flip side, Adam Rose was due for a heel turn, so that was a good move. Cesaro is due for…well, a lot. Tyson Kidd, nearly invisible the past few years, has actually received a fair bit of attention since making waves in NXT. Would fans rather Kidd be off TV completely again? Exactly. As for this bout, it will probably be fine. Given time, it could actually set the tone for the entire evening with a great start. The New Day picks up the victory, even if Cesaro should turn on his team mates and win by himself in ten seconds. Winner: The New Day.
The New Age Outlaws vs. The Ascension
Daniel Johnson: The Ascension have certainly fallen since making the main roster. After all just look at this match. Konnor and Viktor did so many things on NXT to make themselves stand out and to make tag team wrestling matter again on a WWE produced show. Yet, starting the first pay-per-view of the year off against a nostalgia act in this nothing of a match is not a good sign. The best possible scenario for The Ascension is to squash The New Age Outlaws and then have their current gimmick tweaked. If anything other than this happens it will be bad news for Konnor and Viktor. Unfortunately I’m predicting that while Konnor and Viktor will win, WWE will not be content to end this bout too quickly. It will be short, but not short enough. Road Dogg and Billy Gunn will actually get some offense. Since Konnor and Viktor were once positioned as the young up and coming team having two wrestlers who are over a decade past their prime making them look weak is really inexcusable.
Kyle Childers: This match is the definition of a time filler. I understand the idea of having The Ascension take on an older tag team since their gimmick has basically been talking shit about older teams, but I don’t like that the Outlaws yearly comeback is becoming the new DX reunion. I’m picking The Ascension to win because having them lose to a one off tag team is a waste.
Justin Watry: I think fans have misunderstood the characters of The Ascension since their debut on the main roster. Let me explain: The Ascension are not supposed to be the big tough dominant heels. They are supposed to be “playing” big tough dominant heels. Sort of like a self-parody, only they are not in on it. They truly believe they are better than the Road Warriors and other legendary tag teams. Think of it like Heath Slater coming to the ring and proclaiming himself a hall of famer. He 100 percent believes that to be true, the commentators mock him for being delusional and fans boo him because it is disrespectful to actual hall of famers. The issue is now turning that into making The Ascension legitimate. That, hopefully, starts on Sunday. While I am very tempted to pick The New Age Outlaws to win here, I will stick with the new heel act. Billy Gunn and Road Dogg are okay popping in and out of storylines (as already they work backstage). However, anything longer than a short part-time run is not ideal in 2015. Win or lose on Sunday, Ascension stands tall in the end. Winner: The Ascension.
Paige and Natalya vs. The Bella Twins
Daniel Johnson: This is far from the worst diva match WWE could promote on the card. Paige and Natalya are highly capable workers and The Bella Twins have gotten to the point where they are nearly watchable. Nearly. That being said Paige’s in-ring career on WWE’s main roster has been a bit underwhelming from a quality standpoint given her past success. Given that Paige struggled to get quality matches out of AJ Lee who is a superior worker to Nikki Bella and Brie Bella, my hopes aren’t high. Ultimately though the in-ring work of this one doesn’t matter. I’m not expecting this match to last much longer than the entrances. Paige and Natalya will win. Total Divas will be advertised. Many fans will go the bathroom.
Kyle Childers: Here’s another time waster tag. I’m really happy to see the Divas actually get a spot on pay-per-view, but this match has very little build outside of Nikki Bella maybe wants to sleep with Tyson Kidd, which is almost Attitude Era levels of sexist for this build. I’m picking Paige and Natty to win because Paige is the future Mrs. Jefferson and I don’t care about this.
Justin Watry: Credit to both Bellas for improving a lot during the last 12 months or so. Nikki and Brie may be the stars of Total Divas, but they have also climbed the ranks on Raw and SmackDown throughout 2013 and 2014. Heading into 2015, those two just may dominate the division even more than what we have already seen. Until Charlotte gets called up to the main roster or AJ Lee returns, is anybody going to argue that? Why am I predicting them to lose on Sunday though? Because why not? There is no real rhyme or reason sometimes. Give Paige and Natalya the clean win at the Rumble. Sure. Not like the outcome truly matters. Winner: Paige and Natalya.
The Usos (c) vs. The Miz and Damien Mizdow for the WWE Tag Team Championship
Daniel Johnson: The Miz and Damien Mizdown have been over for a little while now. Thus WWE logic will kick in and the two will be broken up and feuded, with at least one of them forgotten about for months afterward. I expect the seeds for this to be planted on this show with Mizdow accidentally costing The Miz the match. This will cause The Miz to lash out at Mizdow phyically and whether he responds at the pay-per-view or not is tough to say, but he will a some point. Jimmy Uso and Jey Uso will retain and hopefully The Usos move onto something else. Perhaps they can even have a proper match on the WWE WrestleMania 31 card.
Kyle Childers: The time for Mizdow’s face turn is nigh and I’m pretty sure that’s exactly why we’re getting this match. I greatly appreciate them trying to get an angle running for the tag titles and it’s been fairly interesting, but they run the risk of running this into the ground if a change doesn’t come soon. I think The Usos retain either by Mizdow causing Miz to get pinned intentionally or unintentionally.
Justin Watry: The Usos are the mainstay in the tag team division. They are not going anywhere, not anytime soon anyways. The Miz and Damien Mizdow are on a collision course though. I think fans are counting down the seconds until we see the return of Damien Sandow! Not Mizdow. When he makes that full transformation, it will be a brilliant moment. Face turns are always fun to watch play out, and Miz is the perfect heel to rile everyone up along the way. If you cannot tell by now, I am going with The Usos to retain at the Royal Rumble. After a solid 10 to 15 minute match, a mishap leads to Miz and Mizdow losing. Tension builds, builds, builds, builds and builds some more during January February and into March. When they finally square off at WrestleMania 31, the wait will have been worth it. Winner: The Usos.
Brock Lesnar (c) (with Paul Heyman) vs. John Cena vs. Seth Rollins for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
Daniel Johnson: The folks at WWE have done a terrible job with Brock Lesnar outside of the buildup to this show. As someone who enjoys titles being used to elevate talent, having the WWE World Heavyweight Championship collect dust for months now has been excruciating. I don’t think there is anything Lesnar can do between now and WrestleMania that will redeem him for all of the time he sat around as champion doing absolutely nothing. That being said at least WWE can make up for it somewhat by having the road to WrestleMania be truly epic with Lesnar as the heel champion being booked on a lot of shows. Really, with how sparingly Lesnar has been used he has to have some dates saved up on his limited contract. I’m expecting Seth Rollins to side with Lesnar and perhaps have no physical interaction between the two. Either Rollins or Lesnar will get taken out early. Sense would lead me to believe Rollins would be the one this happens to. As the match comes to a close Rollins attacks John Cena leading Lesnar to get the cheap win again. Cena and Lesnar have good chemistry, but their feud is super played out. Rollins being added to the match makes this encounter a little more interesting, but I’m holding off on giving WWE too much credit. I’m expecting this to be little more than another singles match as Lesnar retains.
Kyle Childers: Inserting Seth Rollins into Cena/Lesnar part 34 was a smart idea, but I kind of feel like it telegraphs the ending. Is this a legitimate shot for Rollins or is he just there so Lesnar can retain without Cena taking another pin? On the flip side, will Cena pin Rollins allowing him to win the WWE title without pinning Lesnar? My money is on the Minnesota murder machine walking out of the Rumble with the title, with the outside chance of seeing Rollins cash in.
Justin Watry: I have written about this situation extensively the past few weeks, so here is one final breakdown: John Cena wins, oh boy. Put down the pitchforks. There are three things to note here, actually four. First, John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar was the original match. You have to remember that. Regardless of why it was switched to a triple threat bout, WWE had Cena in there for a reason. Win or lose. Secondly, I pay attention to John Cena when he speaks. I listen to the words he uses and does not use. When he gets into his preaching mode and talks about winning, he usually wins. Not making jokes, discussing The Authority or any other garbage. When he gets serious and talks about the title, it more often than not signals a pay-per-view win. Thirdly, Cena matches up well for a WrestleMania main event with Roman Reigns and Daniel Bryan. If Reigns wins the Rumble, we get the big showdown with Cena at WM. If Bryan wins the Rumble, we get the big rematch from WWE SummerSlam 2013. Forget the rumored battle with Cena and Rusev, there is a good chance we see the champ back in a prominent Mania spot this year after he feuded with Bray Wyatt last year. It works, and for those who buy into live event listings (I do not not), there was a typo that suggested Cena was going to be the champ next month. Again, I do not put stock into arena advertisements or whatever junk is made up months in advance, but there you go. Fourthly and finally, here is why I am not predicting John Cena leaves as the WWE World Champion: John Cena got his moment Monday night on Raw. Big pin fall over Seth Rollins, got his friends re-hired to WWE, celebrated with the fans, hugged a kid in the front row, everyone went wild, etc. That was his moment. While it would not shock me in the least for Cena to win the strap and then instantly lose it to a WWE Money in the Bank briefcase cash-in, I am going in a different direction. Let’s look at another hypothetical. Seth Rollins wins. Why would WWE add Seth Rollins to the match? To take the pin fall/submission loss to protect Brock Lesnar and John Cena or because plans changed and he walks out as champ? Pick a side. The funny thing is, as I mentioned above, the WM possibilities work just fine. Rollins versus Bryan at Mania? Sure. Rollins vs. Reigns at Mania? Sure. Heck, even with the tease of a face turn for Brock, how about they battle at Mania? Speaking of that hinted at face turn for Brock! I remember WWE Survivor Series 2002. For those who watched WWE at the time, this storyline has been an exact replica of what played out with Brock Lesnar, The Big Show and Paul Heyman over 12 years ago. Lesnar was the big heel. Show was messing with him. Heyman got in the middle, tried to calm down his client, etc. Brock pretty much told off Heyman; he just wanted to fight Big Show! He did not care what his agent/manager had to say. Chaos ensued, Heyman promised the world that his client would leave Survivor Series 2002 as the champion. Well, he was right…except his client turned out to be Big Show, not Brock Lesnar. Heyman subtly told us all he was turning on Brock and going with his new Guy. Lesnar turned face, Show won the title thanks to Heyman, and the rest is history. History lesson aside, the exact same is playing out now only with Seth Rollins as the instigator. My gut says Rollins may lose the actual triple threat match…but then cash in his MITB briefcase afterwards with the help of that slime ball Paul Heyman. Why am I not picking Rollins then? Two reasons. First, Randy Orton is coming back and looking for revenge on Seth Rollins. Seems like the obvious storyline is already waiting for him on Sunday. Mr. RKO returns at the Royal Rumble and costs Rollins the title match! Boom, easy as that. Then we get a nice long build to their clash at Mania. Works for me. Just seems so clear from a logical standpoint. Second, WWE has pushed all in with this triple threat storyline. There is no holding back. All the cards were laid on the table. Watch the 30 second commercial promoting this WWE World Championship match again. Notice the final five seconds? They all but say that Rollins will cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase after the match. The company is basically telling us it will happen. Now is that them being ahead of the curve, assuming most fans would predict that scenario anyways or is it just a red herring? A false alarm if you will. In past years, WWE has done the opposite of what they have built up. In recent years though, WWE has teased something and delivered it to us. No swerves. No BS. The Royal Rumble promotion is centered around Seth Rollins walking out as champion; make of that as you will. Now for my actual pick! Brock Lesnar wins. I really hope Monday night was just a red herring and Brock Lesnar is not turning face. If he re-signs and stays another year, fine. Go ahead and start planning to make him a good guy in 2015. Do a big face run with him and make some money. If he is leaving the company in two months anyways, why now change his character? Why bother? Especially after being the unbeatable monster who conquered the streak? Remember that? Even if it feels like Paul Heyman will turn on him and align with Seth Rollins, I am just struggling to imagine WWE having the year long plan of making Lesnar an unstoppable beast from WWE WrestleMania XXX to WrestleMania 31…and then bailing at the last minute. Yes, Brock Lesnar could easily face Roman Reigns in a non-title passing of the torch moment at WM 31. Yes, Brock Lesnar could easily battle Daniel Bryan in a non-title match at Mania. Yes, Brock Lesnar potentially leaving the company does play a factor in this all, considering what played out in 2004 when he left (dropped the title before WM 20 and placed in the middle of the card, still a big match but not the main event). It just all feels so familiar. From Heyman teasing a turn to Lesnar being pushed aside as he leaves the company. Flashbacks to 2002 and 2004 are coming back to me. I have read this book, and I know how it ends. My official prediction is Brock Lesnar retains. Randy Orton crashes the party for Seth Rollins, whereas John Cena does not live up to his promos in actually winning the championship at the Rumble. Whether it is due to Rusev interfering or simply him not being pinned, I would like to believe the streak was not ended for Lesnar to drop the belt to Cena in some funky way during a triple threat bout at the WWE Royal Rumble pay-per-view event. I wish I could say I am 100 percent confident in that, considering the dominant 2014 Brock had…but I am not confident at all. If we are discussing John Cena as champ next week, it would not surprise me one bit. If we are discussing Seth Rollins as champ next week (with Heyman!), it would not surprise me one bit. Still, I am being stubborn here and going with Brock Lesnar at the Royal Rumble. Winner: Brock Lesnar.
30 man Royal Rumble match where the winner will receive a WWE World Heavyweight Championship match at WWE WrestleMania 31
Daniel Johnson: Dolph Ziggler being the iron man who wins the match would make this the most entertaining rumble possible this year for me. I also don’t think it is completely impossible that this could happen. That being said I think this is very unlikely. The big two possible winners are obvious: Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns. Since this match is in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Reigns has gotten somewhat of a backlash recently (though some overstate it), Bryan is the more logical choice to win. That being said with how far Reigns has come in such a short time, regardless of if you pay attention to the backstage reports, it is tough to argue WWE doesn’t love him. Just step back for a minute and really think about Reigns’ career. As recently as July 2012 nobody except hardcore wrestling fans knew anything about this man who at the time went by the name Leakee. Fast forward to less than three years later and at minimum WWE is teasing putting Reigns in the main event of their biggest show of the year. Dissecting Reigns’ career further you’ll notice he wasn’t even active during some of this time. Then think about all the memorable singles feuds he has had. Better yet think about all the memorable singles feuds he hasn’t had. Beating Randy Orton in a match where Reigns didn’t look nearly as powerful as he should have has pretty much been the peak of his career so far and that happened months ago. Bryan on the other hand has been wrestling for over 15 years. Arguably only hardcore wrestling fans knew about him for some of those years, but even if that didn’t put him above Reigns in the eyes of this Pennsylvania crowd consider his track record. One of the first things Bryan did to make himself stand out on the WWE roster was having decent matches with The Miz of all people. Since then Bryan has had memorable singles encounters with pretty much all of the cream of WWE’s crop. From John Cena to CM Punk to HHH to Sheamus, Bryan has had a lot of success and has given Philadelphia a reason to love him. Philadelphia is essentially to smarks what Israel is to Jewish folks. Due to this contrast between Reigns and Bryan if Reigns wins the crowd has a very high chance of crapping on it. That is no way to start a huge babyface push for Reigns. My money is on Bryan to win. Yet, as mentioned WWE loves Reigns. While Bryan may win, there is no guarantee he’ll be the only one wrestling Brock Lesnar in the main event of WrestleMania. I wouldn’t be horribly surprised if we got some kind of rehash of last year’s WrestleMania. That way WWE can still have Reigns and Lesnar in a match while Bryan can be there to carry it. Barring that, Reigns could find himself in Bryan’s spot through some other means. Still, as silly as rehashing a WrestleMania just one year removed from the previous one may sound WWE has had a hankering for doing this in recent years. For proof just check out these WrestleMania feuds: Shawn Michaels/The Undertaker, HHH/The Undertaker and most importantly John Cena/The Rock.
Kyle Childers: For the first time in years, WWE has managed to make the Royal Rumble somewhat unpredictable. With Bryan, Ziggler and Reigns looking strong going in, this one could go several ways. I personally would like to see Bryan take on Lesnar in the main event of WretleMania with Reigns vs. Rollins in the midcard, and Ziggler being involved in the HHH and Sting angle, but conventional logic says we get a Reigns win here. No matter what happens, the 2015 Rumble has potential to be one of the better matches since 2000.
Justin Watry: This is it folks. My most anticipated match of the year. The road to WrestleMania begins here. Earlier in the week, I ran through a list of potential surprise entrants. Now it is time to discuss potential winners. First up is who I consider to be the wild card this Sunday night. Randy Orton, whether it is during the WWE World title match or the 30 man Royal Rumble match, I suspect we see Mr. RKO make his long awaited return. If there was ever a ridiculous, ludicrous prediction that just may work, it is Orton coming back with a ball of fire and going straight to the main event scene. Feuding with Seth Rollins (my guess) or Brock Lesnar is fresh and new. I am telling you; do not count out Orton making an impact at the Royal Rumble. Seth Rollins, John Cena or Brock Lesnar, every year, this is a common theory. Whoever loses the WWE World title match will angrily enter the Royal Rumble and earn another championship match. Say Seth Rollins is upset about being defeated in the triple threat bout. Well, The Authority can just add him to the Rumble. Say John Cena gets screwed over in the triple threat bout. Well, he will certainly want to fight some more. Hey, go out there in the Rumble later on. Even Brock Lesnar. If Paul Heyman turns on him to cost him his title, he makes perfect sense to win the Rumble (as a face) and build up a journey to get his belt back…if he is even in the long term plans for WWE going forward. While I am not a fan of wrestlers competing twice anyways, this scenario always intrigues me if done right. The whole thing with Brock Lesnar teasing a face turn is so baffling. So baffling it opens up a ton of doors. Now that I think about it, a heel Seth Rollins versus a face Brock Lesnar? Wow. If Lesnar is leaving, why not pass the torch to Rollins? Everybody keeps thinking it will be Reigns that beats Lesnar to send him out of the company; sure looks like it will be Rollins instead that gets the boost. No Reigns. Does the Rumble finish play into that? Who knows? Another possible scenario is a mystery winner. Never doubt WWE. Who says Dean Ambrose will not shock the world? What if WWE goes all the way with Bray Wyatt or Rusev as main event heels for a Mania title match? What about Sheamus rumored to be back any day now? Or Dolph Ziggler? The company keeps telling us he will be the man in 2015. Then there is somebody like Ryback just waiting to get another chance at the big prize. I have not even brought up The Rock, Batista, Sting, Triple H or any other ace up their sleeve for the Rumble. Again, never doubt WWE. Right when you think you know everything, they throw a curve ball your way. If they have a true surprise planned, they will keep it from getting spoiled beforehand. Okay, I have rambled enough. Here are the two obvious and most logical choices. Roman Reigns. Sigh. Look, I am a fan of Roman Reigns. I am and despite what anybody else says online, the arenas have been cheering for him, and there is no backlash. Maybe there will be in SmarkTown USA Philadelphia on Sunday. That remains to be seen though. For months I have said that if The Rock is unavailable and if Daniel Bryan is still unhealthy, you go with Roman Reigns. Absolutely, no doubt. Right now, he is in the best position as a rising face if all other options are not there. Luckily, Bryan is healthy and is back to wrestling. Lucky for Daniel Bryan, lucky for his fans, and maybe even lucky for Roman Reigns too. Most fans seem to agree that the guy will be a main event star at some point. However, the debate is if he can be that main event star in 2015. It may be a blessing in disguise for Reigns’ long term future with WWE if he is given another six to 12 months out of the main event scene. Then pull the trigger when the time is right. As much as I may regret this, Roman Reigns is not my pick this Sunday. Daniel Bryan. I am going with Daniel Bryan winning the Royal Rumble. Heck, if WWE wants Roman Reigns to win over the jaded portion of the fanbase, have him be eliminated last just like last year and then have shake hands with Daniel Bryan. Win his respect and the respect of his diehard followers who then give him a chance next year. For this year though, I am struggling to see any scenario where Bryan loses. Three reasons why: First, I think if Daniel Bryan is eliminated that is just asking for trouble for the rest of the match. We all saw the Royal Rumble last year, and even if there is a perfect creative situation set, anything less than a Bryan victory on Sunday is just going to test the Philly crowd. Not a smart move to repeat the 2014 Rumble reaction. Second, if Daniel Bryan was not planned to win the Rumble, why return in late December? Seriously, if he was ready, then hold him off until February or even past WrestleMania 31. Now that WWE has brought him back to television, there is no hiding it. You can not put the toothpaste back in the tube. Daniel Bryan returned to TV in an emotional moment, entered the Rumble, and said he would win. Boy, good luck not delivering on that now. Third, ultimately, whether it is Seth Rollins, John Cena or Brock Lesnar as WWE World champion, all three match up with Daniel Bryan. All three set ups are more then acceptable for WM matches. Bryan never lost his title last year and was never beat when he was champion. It is only right that he comes back, wins the Rumble and completes his story book comeback at WrestleMania 31. Winner: Daniel Bryan.
Photos 1, 6: Daniel Johnson / Johnsontranscript.com
Photos 2-5: en.wikipedia.org
Categories: Smooth Runs