John: The 2015 Royal Rumble takes place this Sunday night in Philadelphia as the road to WrestleMania 31 truly begins.
It’s a weird lineup. There’s only one title on the line despite the fact that there are four titles that could be defended on the show. There are no one on one matches on the show either. There are four tag matches counting the Kickoff Show. That just seems so random.
To WWE’s credit, they have done a good job in building up both the WWE Title and Royal Rumble matches. The build for the WWE Title match wasn’t that great, but it received a boost on Monday when Brock Lesnar became a wrecking machine again.
The Rumble is a big sell by itself just because of its name. Daniel Bryan’s return has really boosted it because people want him to win. There are some other good contenders with Roman Reigns going in as the favorite. Plus, there are the surprises that people love talking about. It’s just a fun match that we like to enjoy since it only happens once per year.
Joining me for the preview are Andrew Johnson and Justin Seagull of TJRWrestling.com. Christian Michael couldn’t make it. The match order isn’t the order that we necessarily think will happen on the show. It’s just a format to use for this preview.
(Note: All graphics are from WWE.com. The banner is courtesy of our friend Steve Melo.)
Kickoff Show: The New Day vs. Cesaro, Tyson Kidd & Adam Rose
Seagull: I’m still not sure what the New Day is supposed to be, and I think that’s a good thing. The only way this gimmick will work is if it’s slowly revealed that this is a weird cult and they end up being heels. Otherwise, it’s just a really racist way to put together three midcarders. Anyway, the amount of talent in this match is pretty high (at least on the heel side) so I expect this to be very fun. I’ll go with the New Day because Cesaro is Swiss and Vince doesn’t like that.
Winners: The New Day
Andrew: I really wish I could just write a giant fart noise here. Kidd and Cesaro AKA Spinning Kitties have a tremendous upside as a tag team, because they’re both dynamic characters that just happen to be fantastic wrestlers, but (and this is such an issue with me, because I’m about to get real “Internet” here) it seems like such a goddamn waste of everyone’s time. Adam Rose is having an existential crisis where his party dude and Leo Kruger character traits are converging in the most awkward way possible. Cesaro and Kidd (mostly Cesaro) are being punished for not having “it” like that’s a fucking thing you can measure and The New Day are the ultimate examples of a team created by committee. Everyone is spinning their wheels and trying to make this thing move, but they can’t get out of the goddamn mud.
Here’s what I want to happen: Cesaro, Kidd and Rose get a decisive victory that establishes those swinging cats (OOOH!) as top contenders for the tag titles, Rose says fuck the bananas and morphs into Kraven the Hunter, and The New Day reveal that their personality changes were due to them becoming members of the Church of Scientology and they’re fighting to steal the thetans of their opponents. I know all of this is going down a weird path, but how riveting would that be?
Winners: The New Day
John: This should be a really good match just because most of the guys in the match are good to great in the ring and then there’s Adam Rose, who bores the hell out of me. It is advertised as an elimination match, so hopefully they just get rid of Rose early and let Cesaro & Kidd (let’s call them The Swinging Cats) do the work against The New Day. The tag moves that Cesaro & Kidd are doing already are awesome. I’m looking forward to them working with The Usos a lot later this year. If Rose went away for good I wouldn’t miss him. I’ll just leave it at that.
I think The New Day should be considered a bit of a flop at this point, but it’s also really early in their run as a trio so fans should be a little bit more patient with them. It still feels like they are doing this ridiculously over the top gimmick because it’s going to lead to them turning on the fans for not liking them although maybe that’s just what I want it to be because WWE really needs more heels right now.
In terms of the winners, it will probably be The New Day. While I hope that Cesaro & Kidd have a great run as a team, this is being done as a trios match to put that three man group over. Since it’s on the Kickoff Show, which is one hour long, they might get 15 minutes for the match and that’s a good thing if that happens.
Winners: The New Day
New Age Outlaws vs. The Ascension
Seagull: What they’re doing with The Ascension is near criminal. The years of goodwill that Konnor and Victor built up in NXT (where their strengths were accentuated and their weaknesses were hidden) have been undone in mere weeks by the main roster’s writing team and this ridiculous notion that you need to get yourself over without our help, and oh, by the way, we are going to be verbally burying you the entire time. It would not surprise me if The Ascension gets their walking papers in a couple months. But until then, I’ll give the writing team the benefit of the doubt one more time. But this is the last time.
Winners: The Ascension
Andrew: This can go one of two ways; The Ascension doesn’t even let the match start. They truck it to the ring and rip off the Outlaws heads and punt them into the audience. I’ll be live in attendance and I can say with 100% certainty if I watched Konnor and Viktor literally murder the Outlaws and piss on their carcasses, I would cheer. I would look like a sociopath, but I’d cheer none-the-less.
The more likely event is the Outlaws pin the Ascension and make them look like assholes because NXT is a wonderful place that creates new and memorable characters while the main roster is a desolate place (a wasteland, if you will) where the 1% will make you take their offense so they can get nostalgia pops and make you wish you never left Florida. That’s saying something because have you seen Florida? I don’t even take my shoes off when I’m there.
Winners: The New Age Outlaws
John: I think it’s pretty silly that the New Age Outlaws are wrestling on a PPV in 2015 after going away at WM30 last year, but they both work for WWE so it isn’t a surprise. All of The Ascension’s promos ripping on older teams were done to build up to that moment on Raw where they got their asses kicked and apparently to set up this match. The way The Ascension has been booked in their first month on the main roster has been disappointing, but it’s early. Hopefully it gets better.
This one should be easy to book. The Outlaws have no business winning a match like this. It needs to be short and needs to a dominant win by The Ascension. Put them over strong and end it in five minutes or less. Anything more than that is too much.
Winners: The Ascension
Paige & Natalya vs. The Bella Twins
Seagull: Not sure why this isn’t Paige vs. Nikki for the Divas title. I guess with the Rumble and the main event being the big draws, there’s no need to have the belt be on the line. Plus, this is pushing a Total Divas storyline (that was taped months ago, by the way) of Natalya and Paige’s relationship. It’s actually bothering me more than I care to admit that they’re using a wrestling storyline to try and put over a “reality” storyline that’s just as scripted as the wrestling storyline. Have your brains melted yet? Mine sure have.
Winners: Paige and Natalya
Winner: Bella Twins
John: This one should have been a triple threat with Paige and Natalya challenging Nikki for the Divas Title. It seems like Nikki’s lost matches to both women to earn them a title shot, but instead we get a tag match. A divas tag match isn’t that appealing because quite frankly a match like this should be on television while PPVs should have title matches. For whatever reason, WWE decided to hold off on a title match.
Any time a champion is in a tag match on a PPV it’s usually because that person is going to get pinned to set up a title match down the road. In this case, it’s probably going to be Paige pinning Nikki because WWE is trying to re-establish Paige as a top babyface diva. Don’t forget that AJ Lee should be back in the near future too. Maybe all of this is going to lead to Nikki defending the Divas Title against Paige, AJ Lee and possibly Natalya to make it a Fatal Fourway at WrestleMania. I’m not sure. I just think the faces get the win here.
Winners: Paige and Natalya
Tag Team Titles: The Usos vs. The Miz & Damien Mizdow
Seagull: SO MANY TAG TEAM MATCHES! With this one, the belts are at least on the line. Will we see a repeat of the 1991 Royal Rumble where the servant turns on the master? Will this be the time when Sandow decides he’s had enough and rebels against Miz? Probably not, because the gimmick is over with the fans and the only time WWE decides to pull the trigger on something like this is when it’s way too late. There’s no point in putting the belts back on Miz and Sandow, so I’ll go with the champs. Hopefully they can actually defend their belts on the main show at WrestleMania rather than the kickoff.
Winners: The Usos
Andrew: I don’t have anything nice or interesting to say about this match. The Usos are the John Cenas of the tag division, Miz is trying hard but isn’t getting any help from the people he works with, and I’m cooling on Mizdow’s bit. It’s not his fault because he’s done a great job, but there’s only so many times I can watch this same scenario play out until I’m like “Is there seriously nothing else? Is this it? Why am I watching a rerun every week?”
I honestly don’t care here. I don’t think I’ve ever cared less about anything and I’ve seen Christmas Bounty.
Winners: The Usos
John: This is the biggest lock on the show because it’s obvious that The Miz and Damien Mizdow are going to end their run as a duo in the near future. They dropped the titles on Raw a few weeks ago so that they could do this angle with the split possibly happening at the Rumble. It needs to happen soon because there’s really not much more they can do with this angle.
The smart thing to do would be to have Mizdow accidentally mess up, which causes Miz to get mad at him and blame Mizdow for the loss. Then during the Rumble match they can have a moment where Mizdow shows he wants to be his own man and tosses Miz out for a big moment. No matter what happens with them, The Usos win here.
Winners: The Usos
WWE Title: Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena vs. Seth Rollins
Seagull: This is the toughest match to predict because the outcome depends on whether Brock’s contract is up after the Rumble or after Mania. If it’s the former, Cena will probably win, and Rollins will immediately cash in and win the belt from Cena, being the main heel leading into Wrestlemania. If it’s the latter, Brock will retain and drop the belt to the Rumble winner (see below) at Wrestlemania. Personally, I think it’s the latter. I think Brock is going to roll into Wrestlemania as champion and put over the Rumble winner. But Rollins’s inclusion in the match is pretty telling that the other outcome could definitely be in play. I’ll play it safe and go with Lesnar.
Winner: Brock Lesnar
Andrew: If you haven’t been able to tell by now, I’m pretty down on this show. I haven’t felt this negatively about WWE in a long ass time and I’m at the point where I don’t have faith that they’ll do the right thing ever again. Whether it be for story, character development or business as a whole, WWE is not doing it for me anymore, and if I didn’t already commit to going to the Rumble on Sunday I’d spend my evening sitting on my couch watching reruns of Parks and Recreation. Say what you want about a live PPV versus a sitcom I’ve watched every episode of a hundred times, but Parks and Rec has never disappointed me while WWE seems to do it constantly.
That said, this match leaves me befuddled. The best thing for business would be Lesnar retains. The cool indie story would be Rollins wins and rides it into a program against Ambrose (and Reigns, that’d be fine too) into WrestleMania. The predictable and horrible decision would be John Cena wins and defends against someone that the 70-year-old that hates millennials and people who try different things thinks is deserving of the top spot in the company. Roman probably.
If you’ve read this far and don’t already know what avenue I’m predicting, you haven’t been paying attention.
Winner: Cena wins, fuck you
John: This is a tough call because I want Rollins to win either by winning the match or cashing in the briefcase, but I really have my doubts. A few weeks ago when it was just Lesnar vs. Cena I would have definitely picked Lesnar to win. However, after seeing how he was booked on Raw where he went after everyone and even looked almost like a babyface, I’m not sure if he’s going to carry the WWE Title into WrestleMania. Since he is probably leaving WWE right after WM, they might just have him lose here.
Right now I’m leaning towards Cena winning by pinning Rollins, which is why I think they added Rollins to the match. I think it was a case where they originally wanted Lesnar to win, then figured it would be dumb to have him hold the title for so long if he was just going to leave post WM31 so rather than have Cena beat Lesnar for the title, they can add Rollins to the match and Cena will pin him. That way Lesnar can say he didn’t get beat and still lost while either staying heel or going face depending on whoever he faces at WrestleMania. He could justify the face turn by attacking Heyman saying that he didn’t want to be in a triple threat where he could lose without being pinned. That could set up Lesnar vs. Rollins for WM31.
I expect a very good match here. Rollins is one of the best in-ring performers in WWE that has built up some great chemistry with Cena. We don’t know how he’ll do against Lesnar, but most likely he’ll do an incredible job of selling Brock’s power moves. There will probably be a lot of nearfalls like there are in most triple threat matches.
Since the undercard is so weak I think this will be a 20-25 minute match. They will have plenty of time. It also wouldn’t surprise me if this was the last match on the show although I would prefer it if the Rumble match went on last.
I’m going with Cena for the win by pinning Rollins and then he’ll go on to WrestleMania to defend the WWE Title against the babyface opponent. Cena didn’t main event last year. You think he’s going to be out of the WrestleMania main event two years in a row? I don’t.
Winner and New WWE Champion: John Cena
30-Man Royal Rumble Match
(Listed Participants on WWE.com as of Friday 9pmET: Roman Reigns, Daniel Bryan, Rusev, Bad News Barrett, Bray Wyatt, Dean Ambrose, Goldust, Stardust, Big Show, Kane, The Miz, Damien Mizdow, R-Truth, Dolph Ziggler, Ryback, Fandango, Luke Harper. That’s 17 names. There are 13 more.)
Seagull: There’s only three real choices for winner, with a longshot fourth choice. The longshot is Bray Wyatt, and the three choices are Dean Ambrose, Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns. If WWE was smart, this would be the final four, but I’m pretty sure somebody is going to be eliminated early in the Rumble and his spot will be taken by the surprise number 30 entrant, Randy Orton.
Even though his promos are single-handedly derailing his acceptance by the fans, I don’t think the WWE has given up on Roman Reigns’ super push, and he’ll be the guy who win, last eliminating Dean Ambrose, and he’ll go on to beat Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania.
Wrestler That Lasts The Longest: Daniel Bryan
Most Eliminations: Roman Reigns
Winner: Roman Reigns
Andrew: I don’t know. I genuinely don’t. I think it’d be easier to narrow down who I think won’t win: Ziggler, Ambrose, Wyatt, Ryback.
As for the winner, it could come down to Bryan and Reigns. The money match for me would be Lesnar defends against Daniel Bryan, which would rule more than anything and is a story that needs to be told. Unfortunately I’m not the demographic WWE is aiming for.
Wrestler That Lasts The Longest: Rusev
Most Eliminations: Roman Reigns
Winner: Roman Reigns
John: This is what I wrote in my live review after last year’s Royal Rumble: “You can pencil in Roman Reigns as the 2015 Royal Rumble winner right now.”
As I sit here one year later on the brink of the 2015 Royal Rumble, my pick is still Roman Reigns. Don’t get me wrong. I want Daniel Bryan to win. I think he should win. However, I think WWE’s goal for the last year has been to make Reigns look strong all the time. He has been built up with big wins and shows no signs of stopping.
Here are some other thoughts bullet point style on this match:
– I think Dean Ambrose is going to be one of the first two guys in there and last a long time. Him or Ziggler, but they’ve put Ziggler in that spot before. That’s why I think it will be Ambrose.
– The Dudley Boys are rumored to be on the show. I’m all for it. It would be smart if they were entered back to back in the match so they could do some spots together. The Philly crowd would love it. If they’re not in the Rumble then perhaps they’ll be used to go after The Ascension earlier in the show.
– Randy Orton will be the biggest surprise entrant and I think he’ll last near the end. Bo Dallas will also be in, but that’s not big of a deal because he was booked so poorly. I think Sheamus is possible as a surprise entrant too. He’s probably going to turn heel soon, so perhaps they will do it during this match.
– Dolph Ziggler needs a big showing although I think whatever momentum he had in the past isn’t there right now. Too much bad booking has hurt him. He may last the longest in the match or near the longest just because he’s one of the best in-ring performers in WWE.
– Bray Wyatt is a big wildcard for the match. They’ve done a poor job of utilizing him in the last couple of weeks, yet he’s one of the biggest names. He won’t win, but will do well.
– Big Show and Kane are valuable in the sense that they are veteran heels that will be a big deal for a babyface to eliminate. Show will probably get eliminated by Reigns near the end. I think Kane will get tossed out by Ziggler.
– Rusev is going to look great in the match. I think he’s going to toss out the most guys, which will be around seven people. Put him in there about midway through and have him last near the end.
– Daniel Bryan will get the biggest ovation. There are a lot of ways that things can go for him, but I see him getting screwed out of it somehow. I mentioned Sheamus going heel earlier. Perhaps Bryan will eliminate him, then Sheamus can go back in the ring, cheap shot Bryan and toss him out. The next night they can say Sheamus is in The Authority and that sets up a WM31 match between them that was rumored for last year. It’s not what most of us want for Bryan, but I don’t see him winning here.
– Reigns will win, but WWE has to protect him. I think he’ll enter in the final third of the match so #22 or something like that. The two guys in the final three with him should be heels like Big Show and Rusev. That way the fans aren’t going to hate Reigns if he’s against a boring old guy like Show or a foreign heel like Rusev.
I’m reminded of the old Ric Flair catchphrase: “To be the man, you’ve got to beat the man.” John Cena has been the man in WWE for a decade. That’s why he will be the man that Roman Reigns will beat for the WWE Title at WrestleMania 31. Is it the best decision? Probably not, but that’s where I think it’s going. While I’m not a Reigns or Cena hater, I’d love to be wrong on that prediction.
If it was up to me the WrestleMania 31 main event would Brock Lesnar losing the WWE Title to Daniel Bryan. If not that then Seth Rollins losing the WWE Title to Daniel Bryan. Sadly, I don’t get a say in the matter. I think it’s going to be Cena against Reigns.
Wrestler That Lasts The Longest: Dean Ambrose (He stole Fandango’s number on Smackdown without him knowing. Still going to keep him as my pick.)
Most Eliminations: Rusev
Winner: Roman Reigns
Andrew: As I said, I’ll be in attendance at the Royal Rumble. Come say hi and take a mark photo with me, that way I can prove to people that I’m not universally hated. Enjoy the show everyone. I hope I didn’t ruin your expectations too badly.
John: It’s a two match show. I think WWE has done a great job of hyping those two matches, but the rest of the card is disappointing. If those last two matches are great then that’s all people are going to remember. If they find a way to disappoint then there are going to be negative feelings towards it. I get the sense that a lot of people are going to be angry if Daniel Bryan doesn’t win just like last year. I guess we’ll find out Sunday night.
I’ll be writing about the Royal Rumble live on TJRWrestling.com at 8pmET and will be posted elsewhere on Monday morning. I’ll probably watch the Kickoff Show too because I like the guys in that match. You can read my thoughts live or check it out after the show.
Follow us on Twitter at the following places.
Andrew – @TheAEJohnson
Seagull – @PocketSeagull
John – @johnreport
If you want to send an email, send it to me at email@example.com as well. Thanks for reading.