Friday, January 23, 2015

WWE Royal Rumble Predictions, or Why Roman Reigns is This Era's "All American" Lex Luger

Welcome to another edition of official WWE PPV Predictions!  This month my buddy Dan Moore and I will pick apart the January tradition, The 2015 Royal Rumble!

This year's Rumble is essentially a two-match card with a pretty rotten undercard lineup featuring multiple pointless tag matches.  However the two big bouts are quite intriguing and there are a number of scenarios we could see play out.  It's honestly been quite a while since a Rumble winner and 'Mania main event haven't been super obvious.

Justin leads Dan 50/74 to 47/74.

PreShow Elimination Match: The New Day vs. Cesaro/Tyson Kidd/Adam Rose this is what an A talent like Cesaro has been relegated to?  A preshow six-man teaming with jobbers Kidd and Rose?  I guess, like Vince said, Cesaro is "just not connecting."  I mean just go back and watch his Battle Royal win at last year's WrestleMania and listen to how apathetic that crowd was, or how much the fans DON'T respond when he does the Giant Swing.  You're a mental case, Vince.  When he was being pushed, Cesaro connected with the crowd a helluva lot more than your golden boy Roman Reigns does these days.  More on that later.

Anywho, this should be a fun match if given ample time.  The New Day guys are all solid workers (saddled with a godawful gimmick), and Cesaro and Kidd are both excellent.  Rose not so much.  I'll go with some combination of The New Day to survive.

Justin's pick: The New Day
Dan's pick: I don't even understand what Rose is doing in this. Poor Cesaro. New day wins.

The Ascension vs. New Age Outlaws

I'm gonna get this out there - I hate The Ascension.  They are a truly mediocre act comprised of two marginally talented workers who don't at all look like the intimidating monsters they're supposed to be.  Go back and look at The Road Warriors or Demolition for facepainted destroyers who looked the part.  Viktor and Konnor look and work like every midcard heel team on the Indie circuit.  Why they were called up from NXT is beyond me.

Justin's pick: Obviously The Ascension's winning.
Dan's pick: I'll be in the john for this one when the A boys win.

The Bellas vs. Natalya & Paige

From a workrate standpoint this could be decent, however I don't care about it at all.  The Bellas feud was awful to watch and it had no ending - Brie just decided to make up with Nikki offscreen apparently, because no explanation was given as to why she turned heel.  And now Paige is a babyface again?  Do the writers review the previous week's show when they write the current one?

Justin's pick: Eh, I'll go with the twins.
Dan's pick: I guess I'll take the twins as well.

WWE Tag Team Championship: The Usos vs. Mizdow

This match could be pretty good if Team Mizdow weren't such a comedy act.  Sandow is way over in this goofy "stunt double" role but when the inevitable breakup comes, then what?  His whole gimmick is being Miz's double, so once he no longer has that job what do you do with him?  Have him imitate everyone else?  Big Show did that sorta thing for a while, back in 2000.

Justin's pick: Usos just won the belts back so they retain here.
Dan's pick: Another pointless feud that just won't end. I'm hoping The Mizzes win this one.

WWE Championship: Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena vs. Seth Rollins

This is the least predictable match on the card.  The plan for months has been to build toward Lesnar vs. Reigns at 'Mania, but that seems to be more and more questionable, what with Brock likely going back to UFC in April and Reigns routinely demonstrating that he's not ready for The Ball (more on that later, again).  Brock also seemed to turn babyface on this week's RAW, which begs the question, what available heels could he fight at 'Mania now?  Seth Rollins on the other hand is absolutely KILLING it as the top full-time villain.  There are few reasons to watch the show lately but Rollins is one of them.  John Cena is almost the afterthought in this match, as they've built so much heat between Brock and Seth.

Anyway, I could see any of these guys walk out with the strap, but here's what I'd do if I were booking:  Lesnar F5s Rollins and goes for the pin.  Cena kicks Lesnar off and tosses him out of the ring, and then pins Rollins to win the Title.  A pissed-off Lesnar then jumps Cena from behind, F5s him, and storms out, leaving a recovered Rollins to announce he's cashing in.  Rollins curb-stomps Cena to win the Title.

Justin's pick: Cena, then Rollins by cash-in
Dan's pick: I think Brock retains.

30-Man Royal Rumble

This promises to be one of the more stacked Rumble matches in recent years.  There are at least half a dozen believable winners, including Roman Reigns, Daniel Bryan, Bray Wyatt, Dean Ambrose, Randy Orton, Sheamus (assuming Orton and Sheamus return on Sunday), Rusev, Ziggler, and Ryback.  Now that's not to say most of those guys have a snowball's chance in hell of actually winning, because it's gonna come down to one of two men - Reigns and Bryan.

As promised, more thoughts on Roman Reigns: I throw my hands up; I don't know what in God's name they're doing with him.  The handling of Reigns has been so completely terrible and baffling I can't even wrap my head around it.  Vince McMahon is personally scripting Reigns' promos, and the result has been bad jokes, Looney Tunes catchphrases ("sufferin' succotash!"), and "fairy tale" promos.  In what universe does Vince think any of this will make Reigns seem cool to the 18-25 casual fan?  In what universe does the 70-year-old Vince know best what a wrestler should say to connect with said demographic?  Why does Vince think the "next John Cena" needs to actually be The Next John Cena?  Reigns' character is completely different from Cena's, so why is he being shoehorned into a John Cena-type character?  First off, Cena has always been rejected by nearly half the fanbase because he's perceived as pandering to the young audience.  Why would you want his successor to do the exact same thing, rather than try to get him over with everyone??

Go back and look at the line of top guys in WWE history - Sammartino, Backlund, Hogan, Bret, Austin, Cena - they were all different.  Each guy was totally different from his predecessor, and each guy got over without being forced into a specific role.  Now go back and look at the most glaring examples of top wrestlers being shoehorned into being "the next" someone or other - Lex Luger and Diesel.  Both men were cast against type and marketed as the next Hulk Hogan, and in both cases it flopped.  Luger was never accepted as the top babyface and the company had to go back to Bret Hart, who the fans preferred, and Diesel was the worst-drawing Champion in WWF history, and the company had to go with his former rival Shawn Michaels.  Reigns is being set up to fail miserably as the next top babyface, and it really doesn't have to be that way if Vince would get out of the way and just let the guy be himself.  On all these WWE documentaries concerning the Attitude Era we repeatedly hear the phrase "be yourself with the volume turned way up."  That's how talent gets over.  Austin, Rock, Foley, Triple H, Punk, etc.  These guys were all allowed to be themselves and it worked.  How can a company with such an amazing track record abandon everything that's ever worked for them??  To paraphrase CM Punk, "I don't know, as a business, what you're doing anymore."

As for the Rumble match, look guys, this event is in Philadelphia.  Philly is a notoriously rebellious crowd who doesn't swallow everything they're given.  If you book Reigns to win the Rumble, after how badly his character has been presented, the reaction is gonna make last year's Batista debacle look like a Swedish massage.  You will kill Reigns' top babyface run, and he won't ever be seen as "cool" again until he's had another heel run.  Don't be stupid.

The obvious way around this is for Daniel Bryan to get the Rumble win he should've gotten last year.  Give Reigns another six months to a year to get over on his own, and then you might have something.
In a perfect world I'd make Lesnar vs. Bryan the 'Mania main event, since that was supposed to happen at SummerSlam.  These two could have a fantastic MMA-style match that would be unique and send Lesnar off in style.  Plan B would be Rollins vs. Bryan for the belt, as that would tear the house down.  Your semi-main would then be Lesnar vs. Reigns, just not for the Title.  But with Lesnar apparently turning face, I have no idea what they're planning.

The question is, will WWE make the exact same mistake as last year?  I'm honestly not sure.  At any rate I think Bryan enters first or second and lasts till the end of the match, hopefully breaking Mysterio's longevity record in the process.  Then maybe a heel tosses him out, allowing Reigns to eventually win.  Or Bryan runs the table and gets another crack at a long-term Title run.

Justin's pick: This is really a coin-flip for me, but if pressed (and considering Vince's tone-deaf stubbornness) I guess I'll go with Reigns (I hope I'm wrong).  Had Bryan not been senselessly jobbed out to Wyatt this week I'd almost certainly pick him, but it doesn't seem like they're protecting him for another run at the Title.  Based on my predictions that sets up Rollins vs. Reigns (vs. Ambrose?) for the belt, and hopefully Lesnar vs. Bryan in the semi-main slot.  Or maybe both Bryan and Reigns go over the ropes like Bret and Luger did in 1994 - how fitting would that be?
Dan's pick:  I think Bryan should win and take down Goliath in the 'Mania main event. Brock killed the streak and everyone else in his path.  Now the little guy takes him out. Story-wise it makes sense.  Bryan FTW.

Make no mistake, the unpredictability of the top two matches is a good thing - it's very rare for the upcoming WrestleMania card to have so many possible directions.  Whatever they end up doing I just hope it makes sense creatively and from a business standpoint, or I could be forsaking WWE in favor of New Japan Pro Wrestling (When you get a chance check out some of that stuff - it's pretty fantastic).  Enjoy the Rumble!

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