SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
DISCLAIMER: Projections are based on what the columnist would do if he were booking this event, instead of Paul “NXT” Levesque, Runjin Singh, Ed Koskey, and WWE President “Dirty Grandpa” Vincent Kennedy McMahon. Projections are not predictions, because this is the column where everything’s made up and the points don’t matter. This preview has been sealed in a mayonnaise jar on Funk & Wagnall’s porch since noon today. Some of our departing contestants will receive a year’s supply of Flavor Ice. Pat McNeill’s wardrobe provided by Botany 500. Remember, this is only an exhibition. This is not a competition. Please, please, no wagering. This lineup is based on the best available information as of this writing. These projections are based on what the columnist would do if he had creative control over WWE, unless it’s not funny enough.
One of our loyal readers referred to tonight as “the bizarre Royal Rumble ever.” That’s a pretty good description. There are only a handful of wrestlers who have a chance at winning the match, especially because the winner also gets the WWE title.
The obvious setup is for Hunter to screw Reigns over and win the title tonight, then have the rematch at WrestleMania. The only problem with that scenario is that it doesn’t give WWE what it’s looking for. WWE’s goal for the past eighteen months has been to turn Roman Reigns into this generation’s Hulk Hogan. If Hogan won the title from Iron Sheik in January 1984, then turned around and lost to “Dr. D” David Schultz six weeks later in the Meadowlands, I don’t think Hogan’s run on top turns out as well. It is time to pull the trigger.
Before we preview tonight’s show, let’s get to this month’s edition of the Wrestling History Lesson, because that’s why many of you clicked here in the first place. Twenty years ago, on January 22, 1996, the World Wrestling Federation presented a live episode of “Monday Night Raw” from Stockton, California. In the opening match, we saw Savio Vega take on Jim Cornette’s newest wrestler, the man they call Vader. Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler had the call.
What was happening in World Wrestling Entertainment fifteen years ago? I’m glad you asked! On January 21, 2001, the World Wrestling Federation presented its Royal Rumble pay-per-view live from New Orleans, Louisiana. The opening match saw Edge & Christian defend the WWF Tag Team Titles against The Dudley Boyz. Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler had the call.
Did you catch WWE Smackdown? Well, you can watch one of the segments from this past Thursday night right now. It’s MizTV, with The Miz interviewing Kevin Owens and Dean Ambrose before Sunday’s Last Man Standing match for the Intercontinental Title. And nothing’s more exciting than a verbal debate on a wrestling program. Enjoy.
Michael Cole, Byron Saxton and John B. Layfield will be announcing the show. Renee Young, Booker T and Jerry Lawler will be doing the preshow while Tom Phillips will sit alone in the social media lounge. Mauro Ranallo will presumably be somewhere else. On with the program!
Who are the participants for the 2016 Royal Rumble? Well, let’s see. This year’s list should feature Mike Mizanin, Sheamus, Stardust, The Big Show, Kofi Kingston, Big E. Langston, Xavier Woods, Curtis Axel, Bray Wyatt, Kane, Braun Strowman, Dolph Ziggler, Titus O’Neil, Ryback, Jack Swagger, Chris Jericho, Mark Henry, Luke Harper, Erick Rowan, Brock Lesnar, Alexander Rusev, R-Truth, Adrian Neville and Tyler Breeze. That allows for six surprises, and we can do those later.
Yes, Virginia, there will be a Kickoff Show match. It’s Darren Young & Damien Sandow vs. The Dudley Boyz vs. Jack Swagger & Mark Henry vs. The Ascension with the winners qualifying for the Rumble match. Projection? Between Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar, this year’s Rumble match will be about big guys throwing other big guys around. Mark Henry hits Victor with the World’s Strongest Slam, and we have two more former World Champions in the Royal Rumble.
Charlotte Flair (w/ Slick Ric) vs. Becky Lynch (WWE Divas Revolution Title): I’d say that the real Divas revolution is in Ric Flair’s pants, but Flair doesn’t always wear pants. Hopefully, Charlotte’s father will keep all of his clothes on until he leaves ringside. Projection? Naitch’s interference backfires, and Becky brings back the Hard Knox slam for the pinfall and the victory. Ric Flair has an epic meltdown after the match, which should bring back some memories for our older patrons.
The New Day vs. The Usos (WWE Tag Team Titles): The tag team champs take on the tag team of the year in what should be the playoff for this feud. Projection? The New Day all come to the ring riding stick horses with unicorn horns on them. Then the champs hit Jimmy Uso with a triple stick shot for the win and the titles.
Alberto Del Rio vs. Kalisto (WWE United States Title): Sin Cara is sidelined with an injury, so WWE gives young Kalisto a short run with the United States Title? I think you’ll see more wrestlers “accidentally” injure their tag team partners in the future, if it leads to a short singles push. Projection? Kalisto misses a move, Del Rio knocks out Kalisto with a kick to the head, and keeps the United States title safely inside TexMex America. I also think Del Rio and Zeb Colter should go in together on a chain of TexMex America restaurants. It’s not like Chili’s is invincible.
Dean Ambrose vs. Kevin Owens (WWE Intercontinental Title – Last Man Standing Match): This should be the thrilling conclusion to the number two feud in the company. So, there must be a winner. Projection? The Miz, taking offense at what Ambrose and Owens did to him, runs out and interferes in the match, giving Owens an opening to powerbomb Ambrose through a table. Dean is not able to beat the ten count, and Owens regains the Intercontinental Title.
Your surprise Royal Rumble entrants are Baron Corbin from NXT, David Otunga, “Road Dogg” Brian James, Goldust, Rhyno and Rob Van Dam. It’s too soon for Orton or Cena to return. If Daniel Bryan had been cleared, we’d have heard the noise from his celebration by now. And I suspect that A.J. Styles and friends will be held over for Raw on Monday Night.
30 Man Royal Rumble Match (WWE World Heavyweight Title): Your Projected Order of Entry: 1- Roman Reigns, 2- Tyler Breeze, 3- Dolph ZIggler, 4- Sheamus, 5- Rusev, 6- Bray Wyatt, 7- Xavier Woods, 8- Luke Harper, 9- Adrian Neville, 10- Erick Rowan, 11- Titus O’Neil, 12- Braun Strowman, 13- Brock Lesnar, 14- Kofi Kingston, 15- The Miz, 16- Stardust, 17- Jack Swagger, 18- Chris Jericho, 19- Goldust, 20- Ryback, 21- Road Dogg, 22- The Big Show, 23- Baron Corbin, 24- Mark Henry, 25- Rob Van Dam, 26- Kane, 27- Rhyno, 28- Big E. Langston, 29- David Otunga, 30- Curtis Axel.
Reigns enters first, and eliminates the first two opponents. Sheamus and Rusev come out and get Reigns in a two-on-one position. They throw Reigns through the ropes. Del Rio and Barrett get in it, and the four men brawl all over the building with Reigns.
Meanwhile, the four members of the Wyatt Family take over the ring. Brock Lesnar comes out at Number 13, and eliminates Strowman, Rowan and Harper. The three men help Bray Wyatt eliminate Lesnar, and they all brawl to the back.
At some point, Ambrose shows up to help Reigns. Reigns, Sheamus and Rusev brawl back into the ring. The lights go out and Chris Jericho makes a magnificent entrance, led by Walt Disney World’s Main Street Electrical Parade. Jack Swagger tosses out Kofi Kingston, but Kofi lands on one of the floats, rides the float halfway around the ring, and re-enters the match.
The ring is loaded with large wrestlers when Curtis Axel enters at Number 30. Axel starts down the aisle, but is waylaid by a sledgehammer-wielding Triple H. Stephanie McMahon appears, announcing that due to Curtis Axel’s injury, Triple H will be entering the Rumble at Number 30. Hunter stays outside the ring until we’re down to Reigns, Sheamus and Big E. Reigns eliminates Big E, then Sheamus, then turns around into a Pedigree. The other heels gather around the ring. Hunter attempts a second Pedigree, but Reigns backdrops Hunter over the top rope to win the match and keep the title.
Aftermath: “Fastlane” in February features Reigns defending the title against Triple H, while Brock Lesnar takes on Bray Wyatt.
And yes, we get to Reigns and Lesnar having their WrestleMania rematch in Dallas, Triple H squares off with Chris Jericho in a battle of future Hall of Famers, and The Undertaker battles Sheamus.
Pat McNeill of Greenville, South Carolina has been a PWTorch Columnist since 2001. He’d take the Panthers and the Patriots in today’s NFL playoff games. You know, if gambling were legal.