Question of the Day: What are your Royal Rumble predictions and why?
I am completely overwhelmed by the task in front of me. This was a crazy enough week between Raw25 and the upcoming Royal Rumble and Takeover weekend. Then, the wrestling gods decided to drop a couple of bombshells upon us.
There’s a lot to cover, so no time to mince words. Away we go.
Could Kane Win?
I know. It sounds nuts. Kane is old, has been off TV for the better part of a year and has largely been phased out. The idea that Kane could be world champion now seems ludicrous.
But hear me out – I think it could happen. The WWE is on a runaway train to Brock Lesnar v Roman Reigns at Wrestlemania 34. That doesn’t mean that Lesnar needs to be champ for the entire lead up. In fact, Lesnar has been champion for too long and continuing to hold the title between now and Mania seems far too neat and tidy for the WWE’s liking.
The WWE and Vince McMahon in particular are all about taking action for shock value and to get their audience talking. Jinder Mahal doesn’t sniff a world title reign otherwise. If they were willing to go down that path, you can GUARANTEE that they’d do the same for Kane.
For those of you who think the WWE wouldn’t put a title on a 50 year old – Hulk Hogan was 48 when he won his last world title. The WWE has shown a penchant for rewarding their talent for their service, and Kane has been a model citizen for the past 25 years.
A Triple Threat was curious booking. Many think that the stipulation was a vehicle to allow Strowmann to win the title without Lesnar taking the loss. Instead, I think the WWE shocks the world instead. Don’t be surprised if Kane pins Strowmann, only to drop the belt back to Lesnar the following night on Raw or at the Elimination Chamber. You heard it here first.
The Truth About Raw25.
Complaints about #Raw25 has been far and wide. There was too much nostalgia, and the majority of it was poorly done. The general feeling was that the WWE had a chance to put their best foot forward but instead fell flat on its face.
I couldn’t disagree more. Raw25 wasn’t about the acts from the past at all. It was a glimpse into the future. The WWE recognized that they had a far bigger audience than they have had on a week by week basis, and they seized the moment to showcase their youth on multiple levels.
The Miz scored a reasonably clean win over the #1 star in the company. Asuka was the last woman standing after the 8-man tag. Elias took down John Cena. Jason Jordan shined as the smarmy heel that he is during The Peep Show segment. Finn Balor stood side by side with DX. Each and every one of these moments made a younger talent look like a superstar in the eyes of the casual fan.
Every fan, including the casual ones, knows that the closing segment of Monday Night Raw is always reserved for the big stars. For Braun Strowmann to stand tall to close the show told the audience who didn’t normally tune in that he was THE GUY you needed to pay attention to.
Raw25 wasn’t about the WWE honoring its past. It was about the WWE looking ahead to its future. In that sense, they did a fantastic job.
One of the biggest stories of the week was Enzo Amore’s sexual assault allegation coming to light and subsequent termination. I’m not going to lie. I could care less whether Enzo is or isn’t with the company. He’s a cruiserweight and by definition, never going to be anything more than a bit player.
As an attorney who favors due process, he probably deserved to keep his job until the validity of the allegation was realized. However, it’s 2018, sexual assault is the hottest of all hot button topics, and the WWE isn’t messing around. Enzo represented a PR nightmare. If he was a model citizen, or a star on the level of Roman Reigns or John Cena, the WWE probably benches him until he’s either arraigned or the investigation is dropped. For a guy with minimal upside and a checkered past, it was an easy choice to kick him to the curb.
Braun Strowmann v The Miz at Wrestlemania?
News broke earlier this week that the current plan for Braun Strowmann is to challenge The Miz for the Intercontinental Championship at Wrestlemania 34. The collective internet wrestling community immediately groaned, lamenting the fact that Strowmann is not being pushed towards the world title.
Once again, I have to disagree. You should too. If you want to see Braun Strowmann ascend to the top of the business, this booking should be music to your ears. Any Universal Title change that happens between now and Wrestlemania is window dressing to the inevitable Lesnar v Reigns showdown. Why would you want to put Braun’s first world title win in a position where it would have to be short term?
Instead, having The Miz as a dance partner for Wrestlemania is just what the doctor ordered. History is littered with the biggest and brightest stars being given a mid-card title run prior to their leap to world title greatness. Pushing Braun in this manner allows his already shining star to gain even more momentum and lead to an even bigger payoff down the road.
Braun going over The Miz at Wrestlemania allows for him to have a mid-card title run for several months until the WWE is ready to pull the trigger on him. Can you imagine the rub if he goes over Roman Reigns at Summerslam instead? Here’s to hoping that the WWE continues with this line of thinking and doesn’t make a rash decision on Strowmann.
What is Vince Thinking?
It took everything in my power not to write a 2000 word column on how terrible of an idea the XFL rebirth is. It wasn’t a good idea the first time around, and the NFL and football in general were a heck of a lot more popular then as compared to now.
Football is a sport on the decline. Whether it be backlash from the national anthem protests, the fear of concussions and other damaging long term neurological effects, or just a generally growing disinterest, the total number of people looking to watch football is at the lowest it has been in YEARS.
The timing on this couldn’t be worse. Nothing I heard from Vince McMahon today gives me ANY confidence that they can capture any type of audience as an alternative to the NFL. The USFL has tried. The arena football league has tried. A secondary football league DOES NOT work.
Vince shot down the best chance that they have for success during his press conference today. According to Vinny Mac, there will be no crossover WWE stars participating as players and no gimmicks attached. This is 180 degrees in the wrong direction. The WWE should look to load the league up with as many professional wrestlers as can reasonably play football. They should only sign players that can cut a promo and have players cut scathing interviews at the end of every quarter. They should gimmick up the rules to make it as fun and wacky as possible. They should create fake storylines and feuds to draw people’s interest to the games of that week.
Anything resembling an attempt at a serious football league will bomb out faster than The Shockmaster did. NEXT!
NXT Takeover Philly – 3 Things That MUST Happen To Fix the Brand.
Make no mistake about it. NXT has lost some of its luster. Despite the in-ring product on the Network Specials being as strong as ever, it’s hard to argue against Takeover: Philadelphia being the least hyped special event since NXT became a global brand. NJPW has quickly taken the place of NXT as the “trendy” alternative to the WWE. All is not lost though. The WWE can do 3 things this Saturday to ensure that the brand rebuilds fan interest.
First, debut Ricochet. He’s a huge international star and exactly what’s been missing from NXT. There’s no reason that he shouldn’t be introduced on the biggest stage possible. I’d immediately start him in a program with Adam Cole. Cole hasn’t worked out the way many thought he would. At this point, It makes sense to use him in a Hideo Itami-like enhancement role.
Second, put Shayna Baszler over in dominant fashion. Ember Moon isn’t doing it as women’s champion. Women’s wrestling is in danger of becoming completely irrelevant in NXT. Baszler already has a tremendous amount of credibility as a legit fighter. NXT should book her like they booked Asuka and let her run rough shot over everyone for the next year. This will not only give her a ton of momentum for her eventual main roster debut, but will give a tremendous rub to whoever eventually knocks her off the top of the mountain.
Third and final, Johnny Gargano needs to fail. Johnny Wrestling is the Sami Zayn of this crop of NXTers. He’s beloved and the perpetual underdog. The chase will be infinitely more exciting than any title reign he will have. He simply cannot win the title on his first try. Have Ciampa return and cost him his dream. Then at NXT Wrestlemania weekend, have Ciampa STEAL his dream in a triple threat match. Have Gargano chase Ciampa over the next few specials, only to come up tantalizingly short. This is how you tell a compelling main event story while waiting for the roster to be replenished. It’s not rocket science. Lets see if NXT can make something happen.
Royal Rumble Predictions.
Everyone and their mother will be writing a prediction column. I’ll keep mine short and sweet:
The Tag Title Matches: I think we’ll see one set of tag titles change hands on Sunday, but I keep waffling on which one. In the end, The Usos still have the Bludgeon Brothers on the horizon, while Raw has been hinting at a feud between The Bullet Club and The Bar. Rollins and Jordan are both in line for big single’s pushes, so it’s time for them to go their separate ways.
Prediction: The Bar defeat Rollins/Jordan, The Usos defeat Gable/Benjamin.
The World Title Matches: I’m going out on my abovementioned limb and think Kane is going to shock the world. There’s no way that both world titles are going to change hands. With Sami pinning Styles on Smackdown this week, the safe money is on A.J. to retain. I think we’ll see a good amount of shenanigans from Shane and Bryan, potentially setting up a tag match for Wrestlemania.
Prediction: Kane defeats Lesnar and Strowmann, Styles defeats Owens/Zayn.
The Women’s Royal Rumble: I’m fairly certain that this match will feature a ton of nostalgia and a major angle involving Ronda Rousey. I even think there’s a chance that the WWE pulls the trigger on a Carmella cash-in during the match. In the end though, the WWE is going to put the focus on the current female superstars. The winner of the first women’s Rumble isn’t going to be anyone from the past and it sure isn’t going to be a non-wrestler. When looking at the current roster, Asuka is the only choice. Her strong booking on Monday was not indicative of the WWE wanting to book her strongly as a red-herring, but rather their desire to showcase her in front of the biggest audience possible so that her Rumble win resonates with more people.
The Men’s Royal Rumble: It’s a rarity when I can make an argument for more than two wrestlers as potential winners. This year, I can legitimately argue for eight (Roman Reigns, John Cena, Shinsuke Nakamura, Randy Orton, Baron Corbin, Daniel Bryan, Seth Rollins and Braun Strowmann). I think the WWE uses the Elimination Chamber match to anoint Roman as Lesnar’s challenger, so he’s out. I also believe that we’re getting Cena v The Undertaker, so he’s out too. As awesome as a Daniel Bryan return and victory would be, all signs point to Bryan teaming with Shane against KO and Sami at Mania. He’s out as well. Although both Rollins and Strowmann would be compelling winners to head over to Smackdown and challenge Styles, I don’t think both Rumble winners come from the same brand. Cross them both off the list.
That leaves us with Randy Orton, Baron Corbin and Shinsuke Nakamura. Although Orton v Styles hasn’t been done at a major Pay Per View, I just don’t see the WWE going to the Orton well two years in a row. I also don’t see the WWE pulling the trigger on Nak. They’ve never catered their world title matches at Wrestlemania to the diehards, and it’s hard to think they’re going to do it with a guy who can’t cut a promo. By process of elimination, and to no surprise to anyone who’s been reading my columns for a while, that leaves only one man.
Prediction: Baron Corbin.
That’s a wrap kids. I cannot wait for this weekend’s festivities. What are your thoughts on all of the happenings of earlier in the week, as well as the events to come this weekend? Sound off below!
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