Wrestling fans, rejoice! All the hard work put in from post WrestleMania to now will soon be rewarded, because the 2018 Royal Rumble is this Sunday from Philadelphia. In addition to the men’s rumble, this year will feature the first ever women’s rumble. The best part? It’s the same rules as the men. 30 women, over the top rope eliminations only with the winner earning a title shot at WrestleMania.
Four title matches will round out the 4 hour event, with both rumble matches probably taking up over two hours. Without further ado, the preview and predictions for the 2018 Royal Rumble
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Smackdown Tag Team Championship (2 Out Of Falls): The Usos (C) vs. Gable & Benjamin
From a pure wrestling standpoint, the two tag title matches should absolutely steal the show. The one with less shenanigans will probably be the better of the two, so I’m picking that one to be the Smackdown match. The Usos have been as good as it gets for almost a year now, and their transition to the ‘day one’ characters has really paid off. They put on a slew of classic matches with New Day, and now they’re matched up against Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin. While Gable & Benjamin haven’t been teaming long, they’re both tag team specialists. American Alpha were one of my favorite teams in NXT, while The World’s Greatest Tag Team had that name that for a reason.
The last time these two teams met there was some controversy, so hopefully WWE lets them have a 3 fall classic this time. I’m going to start with an upset pick.
Prediction: Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin
Raw Tag Team Championship: Seth Rollins & Jason Jordan vs. The Bar
The team of Rollins and Jordan has been an odd one. It’s not often that a team wins the tag titles on the first night they’re paired together, but that’s exactly what happened Christmas Day. With Dean Ambrose on the shelf for awhile, The Shield has dissolved for the time being. Reigns was doing his own thing as IC champ (before losing on Raw) while Rollins and Jordan have formed an uneasy partnership. I’ve really enjoyed the Jordan character during this run. He’s dorky and annoying and obnoxious, but he doesn’t quite know it yet. Combine that with his skill level in the ring and you have a character with some promise.
On the other side you have The Bar, a team forged out of toughness and competitiveness. They’re a much better team than Rollins/Jordan, but they haven’t figured out how to beat them yet. I don’t know how long Rollins and Jordan will be partners, but I do want to see The Bar feud with The Revival. If that feud happens over the tag belts, that would be even better.
Prediction: The Bar.
WWE Championship Match: AJ Styles (C) vs. Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn
Under any other circumstance, if you put Styles, Owens & Zayn in a WWE title match, it’s aces. Unfortunately the build for this has been lackluster, mostly because Shane McMahon & Daniel Bryan have been heavily involved. When you have three guys with this much talent, you don’t need to add in an authority figure angle too.
If they stick with Owens/Zayn as the heels, they should definitely win. From there you could have them be co-champions and continue to sarcastically piss off the fans and Shane. The only problem with that is the fans don’t want to hate Sami and Kevin when they’re together. They don’t want to hate Styles either, but it wouldn’t be too hard to turn him into an overconfident dick. Add in Shane helping Styles win, and you have a new “corporate champion”. Plus, Owens aligned with two of the easiest to root for good guys would be a great foe for Styles.
This isn’t the worst situation to be in, especially with the talent involved. But sometimes less is more, and I think people would be much more excited for a classic triple threat match.
Prediction: AJ Styles
WWE Universal Title Match: Brock Lesnar (C) vs. Braun Strowman vs. Kane
Raise your hand if you’re excited for a Kane title match in 2018? No hands? Good. I’ll be the first to admit that Strowman vs. Lesnar was not great at No Mercy. If you think adding Kane to that match is going to make it better, you deserve to be tarred and feathered.
Braun is as ready as anyone to be Universal champion. He’s been ready since he flipped Roman Reigns’ ambulance. In a perfect world, he would pin Kane here and WWE would spend the next 2+ months building the third and final match between he and Lesnar at Mania. Also in this perfect world, Roman Reigns doesn’t exist. As great as Lesnar is, his time as champ should be coming to a close. Raw is a three hour show every week, and the champ needs to be there more consistently. Unfortunately, I don’t think his reign ends here.
Prediction: Kane. LOL. Just kidding, Lesnar retains, hopefully by beating Kane so badly he becomes mayor of Knox County, Tennessee.
Women’s Royal Rumble Match
This a huge and overdue accomplishment for the women of the WWE. I don’t think I’m alone in saying the division is not where it needs to be, but it absolutely deserves some of these spotlight matches. There are 18 participants listed for the match, which leaves 12 spots open for legends/NXT women. If I had to split that 6/6, here are the 12 I’d choose.
NXT – The Iconic Duo (Billie Kay & Peyton Royce), Nikki Cross, Ember Moon, Shayna Baszler & Kairi Sane
Legends/Surprises – Trish Stratus, Michelle McCool, Torrie Wilson, Kelly Kelly with my two dream spots going to AJ Lee and Ronda Rousey
The NXT picks speak for themselves. The Iconic Duo are the best pure characters in NXT and should have been on the main roster months ago. Nikki Cross is the most exciting/unpredictable woman in NXT, which is perfect for a Rumble match. Ember Moon is the NXT women’s champ, while Shayna Baszler is the #1 contender. Kairi Sane is the exciting new recruit who has a championship reign in her near future.
Trish, Michelle, Torrie and Kelly were all at Raw 25. It would make sense to have all of them in the rumble, although I won’t be upset/surprised if they pick other women from the Attitude Era and beyond. Same goes for AJ and Rousey. AJ is more of a long shot than Ronda, but Rousey is the only surprise that could be brought in and win the match.
I love Asuka and think she should enter at 1 and eliminate the other 29 women, but Ronda Rousey is a worldwide attraction. It’ll definitely piss off the die hard fans if she wins over Asuka, but I’d understand it from a business perspective. She’s also different from your average celebrity, as she has the real life fighting credentials to back up any win(s) she picks up. On the other hand, Asuka is the most unique performer they have, and should be fighting for or defending the women’s title at WrestleMania.
Men’s Royal Rumble Match
There are 17 participants listed for the men’s rumble match. That leaves 13 spots open for current roster members, NXT guys and legends.
There will be definitely be more main roster guys added. The first three names that come to mind are Roman Reigns, US champ Bobby Roode and a returning Dolph Ziggler. With Enzo Amore fired and the Cruiserweight title up in the air, you could add guys like Cedric Alexander, Mustafa Ali and Drew Gulak. Other fillers could be Curt Hawkins, Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows. Hopefully NXT guys like Lars Sullivan and Kassius Ohno are given a shot, too. I don’t know if WWE will bring back any legends for this, but I don’t think they’re needed. If you add the names I listed you’d have 28 and there are always guys who fight earlier in the night who end up pulling double duty.
Regardless of how WWE rounds out the 30, there are only a handful of guys who could win. My list would be Finn Balor, Roman Reigns, Shinsuke Nakamura and Dolph Ziggler. Dolph is definitely the longest shot, but hopefully they’ve been keeping him off TV this long for a reason. Roman is the most obvious choice, especially after dropping the IC belt on Raw. The most intriguing choices are Balor and Nakamura. They’re so close to being breakout stars, and a rumble win plus being in a major title match at Mania could be exactly what they need.
Prediction: Head – Roman Reigns. Heart – Finn Balor.
When AJ Styles vs. Jinder Mahal for the WWE championship was announced last week, I speculated that WWE could be pulling the trigger on a potential dream match. If you’re a wrestling fan and DON’T want to see Brock Lesnar vs. AJ Styles, I’m not sure what to tell you. Styles is the best wrestler in the WWE at the moment, and Lesnar is still a beast capable of big time matches (Great Balls of Fire & Summerslam are two recent examples).
Well, guest what? WWE actually did it and had Styles defeat Mahal last night on Smackdown Live, and it’s possible he’ll go on to face Lesnar at Survivor Series. It’d be odd to have Lesnar still face Mahal if Jinder is no longer champion, even though I think Styles’ title run will be short lived. Lesnar vs. Styles is the money matchup at Survivor Series, and you can have Mahal win back the title during WWE’s tour of India in early December. Win-win.
Side note – I hope WWE was paying attention to the crowd reaction during this match. There is no way in hell a Jinder Mahal match should garner that type of reaction, but AJ Styles is a goddamn miracle worker. I know it’s a wacky theory, but giving us happy moments with guys we enjoy watching might be a recipe for success.
Summerslam is only 10 days away, and things are heating up as we inch closer towards WWE’s Biggest Party of the Summer. While the match card hasn’t been finalized yet, there are 10 bouts already on the show, so let’s take a look at the confirmed matches and speculate on what else could be added.
Make sure to check back on the site next Friday for our official preview & predictions post for both Summerslam and TakeOver Brooklyn III.
Randy Orton vs. Rusev
I’m not as well versed on Smackdown feuds as I am with Raw, but WWE aren’t exactly the Coen Brothers when it comes to telling stories so I’m pretty sure I can figure things out. 2017 has been a frustrating year for Rusev. He missed WrestleMania due to a shoulder injury, got separated from Lana and when he finally debuted on Smackdown, he got thrown into a USA themed feud with John Cena that he obviously lost.
You’d think that’d be enough awfulness for one year, but now he’s slotted against Randy Orton, the man with less momentum than a nailed down piece of wood. Orton started the year off strong with a Royal Rumble win and a World title win at WrestleMania, but everything post Mania has been awful. He was in the House of Horrors match & has lost to Jinder Mahal three pay per views in a row. Even though he inexplicably got a clean non title win over Mahal on Tuesday, he’s still tanking.
In a perfect world, this would be a spot to give Rusev a win at a major pay per view over someone with name value, but we do not live in a perfect world. RKO out of somewhere will win it for Orton.
Finn Balor vs. Bray Wyatt
If you’ve been following the story of Bray Wyatt, you know all his storylines have three acts. Act 1. Start a feud by teleporting in and costing someone a match. Act 2. build up that feud with teleportation/spooky dark room promos. Act 3. Lose the match at a pay per view. We’re all the way though act 1 and almost through act 2, so the only thing left for Wyatt to do is lose to Balor at Summerslam. I really hope I’m wrong, but Balor hasn’t done much since returning from injury, and he wasn’t even on the GBOF card. Wyatt beat Rollins at that show, which was nice, but his track record causes me to believe he’s going to lose to Balor at the more important PPV.
This one could go either way, but I’m leaning towards Balor.
Big Cass vs. Big Show (Enzo Amore will be suspended in a shark cage above the ring)
Dear lord please let this be the blow off match. The Enzo & Cass feud has been going in circles for what feels like forever, and adding Big Show into the mix hasn’t exactly been refreshing. I’ve read a few articles that think this has been a long con between Enzo & Cass and they’ll turn on the Big Show, but that’d be a hell of a lot of work for a mediocre result. I wouldn’t mind Enzo/Cass teaming back up as heels to add some depth to the tag division, but there’s no way WWE is doing that. Enzo in a shark cage means there’s a 1,000% chance he’s dropping something into the ring that’s meant for Big Show, but will end up Big Cass’s hands when the referee is knocked out or sleeping or trying to hang himself from boredom.
Big Cass by default.
John Cena vs. Baron Corbin
With Cena presumably fading into the Hollywood sunset this fall, this should be a spotlight win for Baron Corbin. I know this argument comes up every time Cena fights a younger guy in a big match, but John literally gains nothing with a win here, while Corbin could gain so much. He already has the MITB briefcase, and assuming Nakamura wins the title (which I’ll get to later) giving Corbin a win over Cena would make him that much more dangerous as he chases Nak.
It doesn’t even need to be a clean win. Have him kick Cena in the dick, set him on fire, whatever. WWE baby faces will never be as popular as they want them to be unless they have a legitimate heel to oppose them. If Corbin beats Cena at Summerslam, he’ll be on his way to being a true threat to whoever is holding the title.
Baron Corbin, NO RAGRETS
Cruiserweight Championship Match: Neville (C) vs. Akira Tozawa
In my Raw review’s I’ve said that I’d be interested in pretty much anyone else challenging Neville for the Cruiserweight title. I don’t understand the appeal of having guys like Rich Swann, Cedric Alexander, Gran Metalik & Mustafa Ali waste away on 205 Live & Main Event while Tozawa is given a title shot. At the least this should be a multi man match, but since it’s one on one, all I want is for Neville to rip Tozawa’s arm off and beat Titus O’Neil with it.
Neville should win convincingly.
Smackdown Tag Team Championship Match: New Day (C) vs. The Uso’s
New Day & The Uso’s have been having a very under the radar feud on Smackdown, and this is one of the matches I’m most excited for. As solid as Xavier Woods was at Battleground, the best wrestling version of New Day is always Big E & Kofi, so I’m glad to see they’ll be defending the straps. The Uso’s picked up a decisive win on Tuesday over Sami Zayn & Tye Dillinger, and New Day also showed some much needed aggression in their post match attack. You get the sense that these two teams really dislike each other, which is an element that’s missing from a lot of modern day feuds. If they’re given as much time as they were at Battleground, this could turn into a classic.
This is a toss up for me, but if I HAD to choose, I’m going Uso’s.
Smackdown Women’s Championship Match: Naomi (C) vs. Natalya
It’s refreshing to see the Women’s title defended in a one on one match at a major pay per view. I understand the mindset of wanting to get as much people on the card as possible, but the title feels more important when there’s a standout challenger. It’s also nice to see Natalya given a title match at a major pay per view, and as the senior member of the Women’s division I think she and Naomi are going to put on a hell of a match. Summerslam is slated for 4 hours (plus a 2 hour pre show) so there’s no reason to not give each match the time it needs to tell a story. Similar to Mahal/Nakamura, the result of this match may not matter as Carmella should be lurking in the background with her MITB briefcase.
Naomi retains after a hard fought match, and Carmella capitalizes and cashes in.
WWE United States Championship Match: AJ Styles (C) vs. Kevin Owens (Shane McMahon as special guest referee)
Whenever you put AJ Styles and Kevin Owens together they have a chance to do something special, so my only request for this match is to let them do what they do best, which is wrestle and tell a story. I know that’s a lot to ask when Shane McMahon is the special guest referee, but this is a different Shane O Mac than the one we saw ref matches in the late 90s & early 2000s.
The general consensus is that this will lead to KO vs. Shane somewhere down the line (since we’ve already seen Shane vs. AJ) but again, all I want is for these two to wrestle their asses off. Leave the shenanigans for another day. This match doesn’t need AJ getting his foot stuck in the announce table or a confusing ending based on shoulder placement. You have two of the best wrestlers in the world in a title match at your second biggest pay per view. Let them work their magic.
I’m very into workhorse mid card champion AJ Styles, so I’m going with AJ.
WWE Championship Match: Jinder Mahal (C) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
This is the match I’m most nervous about. While it’s great to see a fresh face as champion, Jinder Mahal’s title reign hasn’t been great. While a lot of that has to do with him only fighting Randy Orton, you also have to remember who Jinder Mahal was before this run. He was the third best member in 3MB during his former run and his most noteworthy moment during his last run on Raw was hitting Finn Balor too hard in the head. Just because he’s champion doesn’t mean he’s magically going to turn into AJ Styles in the ring.
Nakamura has also had some growing pains since debuting on the main roster. He’s had subpar matches with Ziggler, KO & Corbin, all of whom are capable of much more, especially against Nak. If Nakamura can’t have good to great matches with those three, is he capable of doing it with Jinder Mahal? Are we in for another bad match with Singh Brother interference? I always skew positive when it comes to pro wrestling, but this match doesn’t have a lot going for it.
Nakamura should win this match. Even if you have the Singh Brothers interfere, Nakamura is clearly the star of this match, and he should be able to overcome the odds and Kinshasa Jinder to win the belt. While Corbin could always cash in his MITB briefcase post match, don’t forget about John Cena. I can picture a scenario where Corbin beats Cena, and then Cena stops a possible cash in on new champion Nakamura, someone who Cena has already shown has earned his respect.
Fatal 4 Way Universal Championship Match: Brock Lesnar (C) vs. Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman vs. Samoa Joe
The biggest compliment I can give this match is that no result would surprise me. If Lesnar wins and retains the title somehow, it would make sense because he’s Brock Lesnar. If Samoa Joe or Strowman win, you’re giving them their first major title win at your second biggest pay per view. If Rollins & Ambrose win the tag titles earlier in the night and help Reigns win the Universal title in the main event I’ll probably lose consciousness.
The biggest stipulation is the announcement that if Lesnar loses, he’ll leave WWE. It’s no secret that he wants back in the UFC, and it’s tough to train for that and appear for WWE at the same time. As awesome as Brock is, he’s always better in small doses, and he doesn’t need the title. He can show up and murder everyone every 6 months or so until he’s 60. If his heart is set on returning to the UFC, let him do it and then welcome him back with open arms if he wants to return.
My heart is set on Samoa Joe winning here, so that’s who I’m going with. Lesnar leaves temporarily, Strowman & Reigns become de facto number one contenders and Joe gets a title he almost over deserves.
There are already 10 confirmed matches, but that will immediately change to 12 after Monday’s Raw. Alexa Bliss will defend her Women’s title against the winner of Sasha Banks/Nia Jax & I’d expect Rollins & Ambrose vs. Cesaro & Sheamus for the Raw tag belts to be announced as well. Goldust teased ‘an unveiling’ last Monday, so he should be on the card in some capacity. Miz vs. Jason Jordan? Hardy’s vs. The Club? Fashion Files? The sky is the limit for a 6 hour wrestling show, so make sure to check back next week for our official preview post.
10 days ago, Carmella won the first ever women’s money in the bank ladder match. Not only was it a crappy match that seemed to end right when things were starting to happen, but Carmella only won when her sidekick/lackey James Ellsworth climbed the ladder for her, pulled down the briefcase and dropped it into her lap. Pro wrestling should not be the medium we gravitate towards when we’re looking for progressive storylines featuring their female wrestlers, and while times have changed, this is still the same company that had women wrestling in their underwear, or in pillow fights, or in kiddie pools full of pudding.
That still doesn’t excuse the fact that the WWE promoted this match every chance they got as a historic ‘first ever’ match for the five women involved, and that good, bad or indifferent, people would be talking about this match for a long time. When Ellsworth casually climbed the ladder and pulled down the briefcase, it was a slap in the face to every women on the roster and to all the fans. In what should’ve been a defining moment for Carmella, all anyone could talk about was how bogus it was that Ellsworth had to climb the ladder and get the briefcase for her. That wasn’t the right time to drag out a storyline; it was the time to back up all their ‘historic’ talk and let the women go out and make actual history.
WWE righted the ship a bit last night, but I’ll never understand why this wasn’t the finish booked for the first match. James Ellsworth climbed the ladder, almost had the briefcase, but Becky Lynch saved the day and pushed him off the ladder, crotch chopping himself on the top rope. That allowed Carmella enough time to knock Becky off the ladder, hit her a few times with a chair, and grab the briefcase. Storyline wise, that’s a smart heel using the match stipulations to her advantage to pickup a win. Reality wise, a woman is the one at the top of the ladder grabbing the briefcase, which is a mind boggling thing to have to be specific about in your inaugural women’s money in the bank match. I’m glad that Carmella still won, because that saves us from the ‘I’m the REAL money in the bank winner’ storyline between her and whoever else could’ve won last night, but this should’ve been the finish from the get go. Either way, congrats to Carmella, the first ever Ms. Money in the Bank.
The SmackDown LIVE Women’s division is once again about to prove just how ground-breaking it can be. At WWE Money in the Bank, Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair, Natalya, Tamina and Carmella will compete in the first-ever Women’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match. – WWE
The Women’s Revolution has been an uneven ride so far. While there have certainly been highs (WrestleMania 32 triple threat) there have also been lows (Bayley’s ‘This is Your Life’ segment from RAW) and the storytelling has been inconsistent at best. There’s no doubt that these current crop of women are talented, but if the creative direction could catch up with their skill level they’d really have something special. While the Women’s division have main evented a pay per view and fought inside Hell in a Cell over the last year, the next logical step was a MITB ladder match.
I’m not overly excited to watch Tamina Snuka slowly climb a ladder, but there’s a ton of talent in this match that I’m hopeful are given some creative spots to steal the show. While Charlotte and Becky will be the favorites, this could be the best time to give Natalya her long overdue spotlight. She’s far and away the veteran of the Women’s division, and winning the first ever Women’s MITB match would be a great tip of the cap to her.
Raw was live from Providence, RI last night and as always, the Average Nobodies were in attendance. It was a really solid show, with a fun opening segment, a great 12 man tag match in the middle and a fantastic title match to close the show. The main reason(s) the opening segment was so much fun is because Stephanie and Shane McMahon named their GM’s for Raw and Smackdown live. Leading up to the show, I had a feeling that the GM’s would be fan favorites, and the picks did not disappoint. First, Stephanie introduced Mick Foley as the new GM of Raw, and the building went nuts. Foley’s reaction paled in comparison to Shane’s pick though, as Daniel Bryan was introduced as the GM of Smackdown live. The last time Raw was in Providence, Daniel Bryan got one of the best crowd reactions I’ve ever been apart of live, so it’s not a surprise people went bonkers for him last night. As far as the actual picks for GM’s go, I couldn’t love them more. One of the most understated reasons NXT is so great is William Regal. He’s a fair, logical authority figure who enhances the product and has zero ego. As fun as Steph & HHH are at times, they do more to put down talents, whether it be verbally or physically, and let their ego get in the way of enhancing the show. With Foley and DB, WWE now has two authority figures who fans already have an invested relationship with, and who can relate to the wrestlers in a way that will make for compelling television. If the writing teams can get their acts together, this brand split could be one of the best things WWE has done in a long time. Smackdown Live should be must see TV, and I can’t wait to see who ends up where.