Hustle Is Posting Right Now - 2014's Most Royal Of Rumblers?
Dec 23, 2013 - 6:14:23 PM
You rock, Maricel.
"We gon' Rumble in this ho.."
It's Royal Rumble season, ladies and gentlemen. With Royal Rumble season comes Royal Rumble column season. I'll be writing about the Rumble, Tito will be writing about the Rumble, Doc Chad will be writing about the Rumble, Mazza will be writing about the Rumble, Pen will be writing about the Rumble, and so on and so forth. It's kind of what we do. Hell, you'll probably see this exact type of column on LoP more than once, because it's fun, it's easy, and it gets everyone talking at this time of the wrestling year.. a look at the top candidates to win the upcoming Royal Rumble match.
I won't be making my official prediction yet, for two reasons. One, I'm going to save it for a column closer to the event itself, and two, I haven't actually made my prediction yet. Things are pretty wide open right now, which is about all we can ask for as fans of the WWE product. This column will just be looking at the top choices and/or the most talked-about names.. some are the usual suspects, and some might not be so usual.. and we'll go from there. I won't be listing them in any particular order, but let's not waste any more time, and let's get right into things..
Sheamus: If you listen carefully, you can just about hear people all over the world groaning as they read the name "Sheamus" as a possible Royal Rumble winner. A Sheamus victory would make him only the fifth man in Rumble history to win multiple times, joining "Stone Cold" Steve Austin (who won the Rumble three times), Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels and John Cena. Quite the lofty status for the man, when you think of the legendary names in company history who have one it just once or not at all.
Sheamus is one of the rare people on the full-time WWE roster that can take some time off due to an injury and be placed right back into the main event scene upon his return. No slow build, nothing. It's that type of luxury that leaves me able to envision Sheamus winning here, but I just can't commit myself to picking him, necessarily. While we have definitely seen returning names go on to win the Royal Rumble, both of the surprise entrant (Cena) and not-so-surprise entrant (Triple H) variety, I almost think the very top of the WWE picture is too crowded right now to immediately place several more people in there. If he's going to return for the Rumble, I think we're more likely to see Sheamus have a good run in the match, only to get involved with the person that will eventually go on to be his opponent at WrestleMania, causing an elimination. If Sheamus does win, though, expect the IWC to rant and rave for months to come. Again.
CM Punk: Punk nearly turned into a bit of a main event afterthought because it has been so long since he has been in the actual main event scene. If I recall correctly, he hasn't had a WWE or World Title match since unsuccessfully winning the WWE Title back from The Rock at Elimination Chamber. After his historic WWE Title reign, he has now pretty much gone a full year without being in the title picture, but now that he has gotten involved in a feud with The Shield and has gotten into it with Triple H again, he can be right back in the mix, and probably will be.
This is where the conspiracy theorists will come out and say that Punk doesn't have a chance of winning because WWE management is "down" on him, based on his tweets following the AJ Lee/Michelle Beadle altercation that was either something SOOPER SEERIUS or not a big deal at all, depending on what side of the bed Dave Meltzer wakes up on that particular day. However, I don't buy those reports. I don't buy them at all. If Punk has had half as much heat on him as internet reports have said through the years, he wouldn't even be with the company anymore, and he damn sure wouldn't be a three-time World Champion and a two-time WWE Champion. He'll be just fine, and I don't see his relationship with AJ (who also supposedly has plenty of backstage heat, and yet, she continues to successfully defend the Divas Title) hurting him professionally.
Punk has ties to all three of the top candidates to be the WWE World Champion when WrestleMania rolls around. With the great rivalry he's had with John Cena, giving them a Mania main event would be a nice reward. His history with Daniel Bryan is well documented, and those two facing off for the biggest title in all of wrestling at the biggest event in all of wrestling would be the most surreal dream ever for indy wrestling fans. He and "Randall" Orton have history, as well, and would provide another opportunity for Orton to get destroyed on the mic week in and week out, which is entertaining to me, and I'm not even an Orton "hater". You really can't go wrong with any of the choices there, should Punk win the Rumble. He's easily one of the favorites.
Bray Wyatt: Here's a bit of a dark horse pick. I think the odds of Wyatt winning the Rumble are very slim, but there's no denying that he's being groomed for big things in his future. He delivers his performances in the gimmick masterfully, allowing him to continue getting over, even though he is at ringside, not in the ring, more often than not. What better way to assure he gets to the level that he's being groomed for than to have him win the Rumble and be involved in one of the handful of "main events" at WrestleMania? I'll say this, though.. if Bray wins the Rumble, you might as well start to pencil in something like John Cena VS The Undertaker as the actual main event of Mania, because it's too soon to have Wyatt go on last at the biggest wrestling event of all-time, and therefore, the final match would need to be as loaded as possible. Hell, if it will finally get us Cena VS Taker at Mania, I'd be all for Bray Wyatt winning the Royal Rumble.
John Cena: Did you hear that? More groans. Joining Austin as the only three-time Rumble winners in history would be quite the feather in Cena's cap. Of course, there's one hurdle in front of Cena that might prevent him from winning the Rumble.. all signs point to him being in the WWE World Title match at the pay-per-view. Yes, there is always the chance that the match could be earlier in the card, Cena would lose, and then be involved in the Rumble itself later, but it isn't the likely option, if you ask me.
If he is in the Rumble, though, can you count him out? Can you count him out of anything with the way he's booked? WWE could turn this year's Rumble into Cena VS 29 other men, where the only way he can win is if he actually eliminates all 29 of them before he gets tossed over the top rope, and there would still be people who expect him to be victorious. I can't blame them for feeling that way, though. The man has "overcome the odds" so many times at this point, and it doesn't seem like that booking style will change at any point soon.
Brock Lesnar: With his on-again, off-again schedule, Brock is almost a bit of a forgotten man at this point, especially without Paul Heyman on WWE programming every week, dropping his name. Brock has a Rumble victory under his belt, so he is another person that could join the multi-win club.
The interesting spot that Brock is in sees him as a huge name.. one that gets a lot of hype when he shows up on television.. but one that is "only" 3-2 since returning to the company 20 months ago. Yes, those five matches were against John Cena, Triple H and CM Punk, and not some midcarders or random throw-ins, but it still isn't the greatest of records. On the other hand, though, he's been back for five very high-profile matches, but he has yet to go after the biggest prize in the business, so maybe it's his time to do so. Now that the Road To WrestleMania is technically underway, you have to know that Lesnar will be returning to grace our televisions again soon, no matter what.
We've seen him feud with Cena, and a heel VS heel feud with Randy Orton, where neither man is exactly strong on the mic, isn't going to do much of anything for a lot of people. Would a Daniel Bryan WWE World Title victory (in a match that is nothing but pure speculation at this point, no less) be Brock's best option and give him the best chance at winning the Rumble? We shall see.
AJ Styles: This one might be the biggest dark horse pick of the entire list. We don't have definitive word on whether or not AJ's contract with TNA is actually up, whether it's all a work, whether or not WWE would even give him a second glance if he is a free agent, etc. He's just a name that people like me throw into columns like this to test reactions and to see what all of you out there in ReaderLand think, although I'm pretty sure I already know the answer.
Just think about the sheer level of shockocity that would be running wild if WWE signed AJ Styles and in what would probably end up being his very first match for the company, at the age of 36, had him win the Royal Rumble to earn a spot in a main event match at WrestleMania 30. Not Sting. Not Kurt Angle. Not even Jeff Jarrett. AJ Styles. Someone who the average wrestling fan might not even know, since he's spent his entire mainstream career wrestling for TNA, and TNA only holds a small percentage of the pro wrestling marketplace. Relax, TNA supporters. That isn't slander towards your company. It's the truth. The prototypical "average wrestling fan" only watches the WWE product, and doesn't know what is happening in TNA. They wouldn't even be able to tell you who the members of the TNA roster were, short of guys who used to wrestle for WWE, or maybe even the guys who used to wrestle for WCW. I can't think of too many scenarios in recent wrestling history that were bigger long shots than that and still ended up happening, but I suppose, in this wacky world of professional wrestling that we love so much, the phrase "never say never" is truly apt.
Roman Reigns: The more you look around, and the more you talk to different people, the more you realize that Reigns is a chic selection as a possible Rumble winner. I've been trying to tell people all year now that Reigns is everything WWE could possibly want in a main event guy, but after his performance at Survivor Series, people are jumping on the bandwagon without even thinking about it.
In the wake of Survivor Series, I tweeted that Reigns is my pick to win the 2015 Royal Rumble, but then we saw reports that WWE might be planning something special for Reigns at the 2014 Rumble, and that it might be something bigger than anyone expects it to be. To me, that can only mean one of a few things..
- He's going to challenge Kane's single-Rumble record for eliminations.
- He's going to win the Rumble.
- He's going to win the Rumble after challenging Kane's single-Rumble record for eliminations.
The question remains.. is it too soon for Reigns to break out as a main event singles player? He can still use some work, although he has made some crazy improvements over the past year. Some people either forget or don't realize that Reigns has only been wrestling for three years now. He's still relatively green, and has been placed in the perfect position of being the "muscle" in a stable that features more experienced workers that can help to accentuate his positives and mask his negatives. Being thrust into a singles spot right away takes that off the table, and would be a "trial-by-fire", forcing him to step up to the plate. As big a fan of Reigns as I am, and as much as I see in his future, I'm not sold on him being ready for that yet.
100% credit goes to LoP personality (and my current landlord) Y2krj for this idea, which I think is much more likely for Reigns in this coming Rumble match..
After going on a bit of a tear, eliminating people left and right, Reigns sits at ten eliminations, one shy of Kane's record. As Reigns is closing in on his record-tying elimination, he is "accidentally" dumped over the top rope by none other than Dean Ambrose. It furthers the "every man for himself" aspect of the Rumble, and it continues the split of The Shield, which is happening whether we want it to or not. This allows Reigns to look like an absolute monster, placing him on everyone's radar for a victory in 2015. I like it. I like it a lot.
Batista: With news breaking last night (as of the moment I type this very sentence) that "The Animal" will be returning to WWE at any time now, you have to throw him into the mix, especially with word that he'll be on a "part time full time" schedule. By that, I mean that all signs point to him being back for a few months, but when he's back, he's back, and not just on a limited schedule like other part-timers would be. Add him to the list of names that could win their second Rumble without shocking people.
At first glance, though, you'd think his initial first few matches might be tied up, in one way or another. He has plenty of history, good and bad, with Triple H and Randy Orton, who are kiiiiinda in the spotlight these days. John Cena is the man who "injured" him, forcing him to "quit" a few years back, so you'd think he would want revenge. If he comes back as a face, it would appear his booking is taken care of to start. If he comes back as a heel, it would appear his booking is taken care of to start. He doesn't need the Rumble, does he? Does he?!?
Hulk Hogan: Welp. Another groan from the peanut gallery, but whether you like it or not, Hogan is a possibility here, albeit a small one. A Hogan victory in the 2014 Royal Rumble would be a full 23 years since his last Rumble win, which would end up being a record that will never be broken. Just for the sake of reference, John Cena currently has the longest stretch between Rumble victories, winning his first in 2008 and then having to wait all the way until this year to win his second. That poor, poor man.
Anyway, the Hogan inclusion is probably more along the lines of the internet fans being leery of Hogan, his backstage "connections", and how we just can't seem to get rid of him. Just when you think he's done.. boom.. he's right back in the spotlight somewhere. Just when you think he isn't wrestling anymore.. boom.. he's in the main event somewhere. One of the "popular" joke (or maybe not quite a joke) picks for the ending of TLC was to have Cena and Orton beat the hell out of each other, only to have Hogan return, come to the ring, push them both off a ladder, then climb up and grab both titles for himself. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to cry and possibly try to take my own life after thinking about that.
Daniel Bryan: Before anyone gets all excited over the thought, I must remind you that early indications are that Bryan, like Cena, could/should be involved in the WWE World Title (that will never be an easy thing to type, by the way) match at the event, so his inclusion in the Rumble itself comes with some caveats.
For the sake of this column, though, you almost have to call Bryan the "favorite" to win the Rumble, don't you? People on both sides of the "How well are you enjoying the current storyline with Daniel Bryan and The Authority?" coin seem to be predicting a Bryan victory. It makes sense with the point of the storyline.. The Authority don't think Bryan is worthy of title shots, while Randy Orton seems to want nothing to do with facing off with Bryan.. so instead of waiting for those in charge to grant him his shot, he just wins the Rumble and takes it for himself. Throw in one more hurdle at Elimination Chamber, and you have Bryan overcoming some serious odds as he tries for the "feel good" ending to this storyline that has looked both great and terrible for him at times.
If Bryan is in the Rumble, and if he is either the first or second entrant in the match, you have to think his chances actually go up. What better way to tie up the entire storyline than to have Bryan go the distance in the Rumble like Shawn Michaels did in 1995 (and like Chris Benoit did in 2004, but of course, that year's Rumble has mysteriously vanished from the record books) now that Michaels has gotten himself involved in things? It adds to the odds that Bryan has to overcome. It adds to his mystique as the scrappy fighter who never backs down.
Of course, I'm not saying to write him off if he enters the Rumble at any other number, but you have to feel confident, knowing your wrestling history, if he's forced to go coast-to-coast.
Again, I will make my official Rumble predictions at some point in the not-too-distant future, but now I turn things over to ReaderLand. Did I miss any "favorites" in this column? What are your thoughts on the people I mentioned, and their chances of winning? If you want, you can even leave your prediction for the match. Just hit me up and let me know what's on your mind.
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