The Royal Rumble is one of my favorite matches of the year. Thirty guys with one goal, win the shot at a championship title. One of the best parts is watching the interactions of the low and mid-card wrestlers against the main eventers.
Trying to predict the Royal Rumble winner often involves trying to predict what the WWE wants to do for Wrestlemania. When there was only one belt, the winner went on to get that belt and predicting it was easier. When there was a wrestler that was being held down by Mr. McMahon, the best bet was on that wrestler to win the Rumble and go on to win the title at Wrestlemania. With the brand extension, there are two more belts, but it seems like many more options. One brand can work with the Rumble winner as challenger for the title while the other brands get an extra month to figure out who to push at the champion.
The four non-Rumble matches are each for a championship. Rarely does someone in one of these matches compete in the Rumble in any major extent, though I suppose it would set up a neat surprise to have someone lose the match and come back and immediately earn a new shot. We have to take a look at them since the results of these matches might have an affect on who wins the Rumble.
JBL vs John Cena (C) for the World Heavyweight Championship – I hope that Shawn Michaels doesn’t turn on JBL just yet. We’re still watching his character suffer during the fight between doing what is right and doing what his employer says. The story hasn’t reached it’s peak, though I expect we may see some cracks in Shawn Michaels loyalty leading up to a Wrestlemania match between the two. I think this match is mainly for those two, so Cena retains.
Edge vs Jeff Hardy (C) for the WWE Championship – This is the match with the most interesting possibilities. The main rumor is that Christian Cage is making his WWE return and will be revealed as the person behind Hardy’s troubles of the past couple months. Tomko is also performing in dark matches, and if Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins are involved, I see a formidable stable being formed. Though I really like Hardy as champion, Edge wins the belt.
Matt Hardy vs Jack Swagger (C) for the ECW Championship – I still don’t really understand why Matt Hardy lost the belt, and to Jack Swagger at that. I do like the Jack Swagger character but as they do, the WWE stuck a belt on a character early to see how the crowd reacts and the wrestler deals with the pressure. Now that Swagger has the belt, it should stay on him until at least Wrestlemania. Should Hardy win it back then? Perhaps. Or perhaps he is slated for better things.
Melina vs Beth Phoenix (C) for the WWE Women’s Championship – I like the story with Beth Phoenix and Santino Marella, so I don’t really care what happens with this match as long as they stay a couple.
The Royal Rumble
This year, I don’t see any real clear-cut favorites being shoved down our throats. Yes, there are a lot of superstars who would be legitimate Rumble champions, but I don’t see a forced favorite in the storyline like certain years have had.
I’m going to also assume that if the wrestler wasn’t announced as an entrant, then they aren’t going to win. That would have been a bad assumption last year, as John Cena was surprise entrant #30 to win the whole thing. I don’t see anything that points toward doing that again this year. One of the favorites, had he been back from injury would have been Batista, but he is out of competition due to a hamstring injury. It’s possible but not likely that the WWE has been delaying his updates to make him seem like he’s still a ways off from returning when in fact he’s closer than we think.
Let’s get the people out of the way who have little to no chance of winning. I’ve coded their color to their brand (Red=Raw, Blue=SmackDown, Gray=ECW)
The Brian Kendrick
These eight wrestlers are either too new or currently wouldn’t be legitimate Wrestlemania main eventers. I think a few of them, if pushed right, could show up in the main event of Wrestlemania over the next few years. The best chance of these worst chance guys is probably.. ah, who am I kidding? None of these guys have a chance.
The Dark Horses
The next few wrestlers could win the match and be considered adequate main eventers (in physical stature and character build) for Wrestlemania:
The Big Show
The Great Khali
Most of these ten wrestlers are former world champions (Mysterio, Kane, Punk, Show, Khali, and Henry) and would be believable going for the title. Vladmir Kozlov has been involved with Triple H, Jeff Hardy and Big Show recently and is still undefeated. Shelton Benjamin holds the United States championship and it shouldn’t be a large jump for him to compete at the main event level. CM Punk just won the Intercontinental belt and probably isn’t going to be sent back to the main event level for some time. The only thing standing between these men and a title is a good push and interesting storyline. The most likely at this level would be Kozlov or Kane. John Morrison would be my pick if the WWE decided to shake things up and allow an ECW superstar to win.
The Most Likely
These next four superstars are the ones that have the best chance to win the Rumble. They’ve been in the top eschelon and have proven themselves in match after match or are always fan favorites:
Triple H – He is in a feud with Vicki Guerrero who is using Big Show as muscle. I think they’re shooting for a Big Show-Triple H match at Wrestlemania.
The Undertaker – I think Undertaker is due one last Wrestlemania championship win before he heads off into the darkness in the pine box. The only problem is, I don’t see anything that tells me he’ll be done this year.
Chris Jericho – I’m not really sure where the feud with Stephanie McMahon is headed. I originally thought that there would be a secret romance between the two but it looks to be headed in another direction. After having to apologize to the fans and slink away from the ring last Monday, it seems like the WWE wants us to cheer him on against an evil Stephanie. A Jericho win in the Rumble would probably lead to two months of back and forth between the two. I’m not sure I like a Jericho face since he is such a great heel, but perhaps there is a swerve in the future. Having the crowd cheer him for two months only to reveal that they’re actually be in cahoots would make him hated even more. It would have been neat to see him hired by John Bradshaw Layfield, though, and build up a stable.
Randy Orton – Shortly after Jericho was reinstated, Orton came out and slapped, booted and punted Mr. McMahon. It should set up the biggest fued leading into Wrestlemania, but we haven’t seen yet who Mr. McMahon will pit against Orton. Other than Bradshaw and maybe Regal, there aren’t any other main event level heels on Raw. Out of those, Orton seems like he might be the best to go up against Cena, if Cena still has the belt by then.
There are usually some surprise and unannounced entrants. Since only 23 are announced so far, there is room for seven more. We’ll probably see Goldust, some of the tag teams like Cryme Tyme, Jesse and Festus, Jim Duggan and other popular faces. There are a few others that could possibly show up and go for the title shot.
Christian Cage – I’ve already mentioned him above. I don’t think he’ll show up in the actual Rumble, but it’s always possible that something happens in the Edge/Hardy match that leads to Christian showing up here.
Mr. Kennedy – His dislocated shoulder should be healed by now. Though he has been on TV recently and will probably be in a feud with MVP, he would still be a legitimate contender.
Umaga – The vignettes say he’s coming back to SmackDown. I don’t see any reason why he can’t come back at the Rumble. Don’t think he’d win though. Too early to push him to the main event of Wrestlemania.
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin – He’s being inducted into the Hall of Fame this year and it would be great to see him in one last match, perhaps kick started by eliminating someone from the Rumble. Chris Jericho maybe?
I’m pretty certain that the WWE wanted to do Batista vs Cena at Wrestlemania, but that will have to wait for another year. I think they deserve more than a two month build up and giving them another year helps give them the time to build it up.
SmackDown has a great feud with Edge and Hardy, and possibly the addition of Christian, Tomko, Ryder and Hawkins. Now that Matt Hardy doesn’t have the ECW belt, he could show up on Smackdown and help his brother. I think that works against the Undertaker and Triple H, so the two wrestlers with the greatest chance to win are Randy Orton and Chris Jericho.
Either of those two would be a good pick and would make a great main event for Wrestlemania. Both of them are very good at getting the fans to hate them, and that is what is needed in an opponent to Cena. John Cena is one of those guys that polarize fans to one extreme or the other. They either hate him or love him. Having an opponent that draws fans ire only helps Cena out.
However, I have to pick one of them as the 2009 Royal Rumble winner, and I pick Randy Orton. I had been leaning toward him for the past few weeks, but the final deciding factor was the punt to Mr. McMahon’s head last Monday night. That kick puts him sqarely into the main storyline and probably the target of Stephanie McMahon’s revenge. Staying heel at that point might be a tall order, since Stephanie doesn’t really come off as a fan favorite and might make fans feel pity for Orton, but they can always switch her out for her brother Shane.
Well, that’s it. I hope you’ve enjoyed my rambling and no matter who wins tomorrow, it looks like it should be a good show.