Hello AW Universe,
It’s almost here! The Road to WrestleMania officially begins this Sunday, with the first stop in Houston for Royal Rumble.
Here’s a complete preview and predictions for all the matches.
Shorty G vs. Sheamus
This match has pre-show written all over it. Chad Gable’s been handed a garbage gimmick, and he’s been a good soldier by doing the best he can with it, but there doesn’t seem to be much logic in bringing Sheamus back as a bruising heel just to have him lose.
Andrade vs. Umberto Carrillo
United States Championship
Exit: Rey Mysterio. Enter: Umberto Carrillo. This match is likely the main event of Sunday Night Heat as the lead-in to the Royal Rumble card. Andrade goes headlong into another feud, this time playing the veteran, as Mysterio did for him. Carrillo’s first mini-run didn’t go over all well as WWE management probably hoped; his in-ring work is impressive, but his pretty bland whitemeat babyface gimmick just couldn’t get over with the crowd. But it appears that Carrillo might be re-packaged to have a bit of an aggressive edge, which should only serve him well. He could probably use a mouthpiece himself, but until then this should be a good match in what I assume will be a longer-term program between the two.
Bayley vs. Lacey Evans
SmackDown Women’s Championship
So is Lacey Evans now just by-passing Sasha Banks altogether? I thought that maybe the slow burn of having Sasha off of SmackDown for two week was to get the two of them here. But instead, Lacey finds herself in a title match, which, I honestly think that she might win it. Even after Bayley’s re-packaging as a bitter, spiteful heel, she’s still struggling to get over with the crowd. Lacey Evans’ face turn has been pretty whitemeat, but her legitimate military background has resonated, as has her passion as a working parent. Honestly, I don’t hate it as much as some do, but she has to ditch the “Sassy Southern Belle” gimmicks, and just be “Lacey Evans, Wrestler.” Either way, this seems like a spot to change up some of the inertia that has befallen the SmackDown women’s division.
Winner: Lacey Evans
Roman Reigns vs. King Corbin (Falls Count Anywhere)
Finally, for the love of the Wrestling Gods, this program might be over. Reigns has been beaten down and humiliated, and now finally, with the help of his family, The Usos, he has an opportunity to exact all of his revenge on King Corbin. Is match is likely going to involve a dog food spot, but this time Roman being the one to dump it all over Corbin. Yes, pretty stupid, but at least it closes a creative arc– something WWE Creative struggles to do often– and, thus, ends this painfully worn-out feud.
Winner: Roman Reigns
Becky Lynch vs. Asuka
Raw Women’s Championship
My god, is this match going to be good. Paul Heyman and the bookers on Raw seem to have unlocked everything that made Asuka good during her undefeated NXT days, and Becky Lynch is firing on all cylinders, reaching a new level with her searing promos. Though she had hit a bit of a nadir after the zenith of her push– “Becky Two-Belts” winning the WrestleMania 35 main event– but the drive from both the writers and her to slightly alter her character and get heat back shows their commitment to “The Man.” But what can give Lynch even more heat as we head into WrestleMania season? How about her grand plan failing and her falling short of beating Asuka again— remember, Becky asked for this match as part of her “contract negotiation”– soaking up some sympathy heat and being the pursuer of the belt again, while giving some legitimacy back to Asuka as a singles champion, while also becoming “Asuka Two-Belts” herself?
Sounds like an angle I’m all for.
“The Fiend” vs. Daniel Bryan (Strap Match)
Daniel Bryan’s face turn has worked, in era where all fans want are heels and tweeners. “The Fiend” is still over too, with his infrequent appearances and creepy aesthetic still not wearing thin with the fans. Bryan is still a good hand, and can be relied upon to deliver a fantastic match. The strap stipulation is a unique enough gimmick in that it’s traditional wrestling, but rarely used these days, so the match should be tight and well choreographed, with good storytelling keeping Bryan looking strong in the face of violence, but ultimately keep the title on Bray Wyatt.
Winner: “The Fiend”
Women’s Royal Rumble Match
On the other side of the perhaps overly-revealed Men’s Royal Rumble Match, we only know of five entrants in this one: Charlotte Flair, Natalya, Sarah Logan, Nikki Cross, and Alexa Bliss. This means that it’s likely going to be a surprise entrant winning this. There’s been a lot of speculation that Ronda Rousey might be making her return in this, so she’s instantaneously a top choice if that’s the case. Personally, Alexa Bliss is someone I’d love to see get back into the main event scene, possibly even making a heel turn by eliminating Nikki Cross as the does it, or even have Charlotte Flair get a Rumble win on her resume. But it’s a rising star from NXT who is seems might be getting a rocket strapped to her back, and launching right into a WrestleMania title match: Shayna Baszler. She’s already passed the torch on the Black and Gold brand, dropping the NXT Women’s Championship to– the equally over– Rhea Ripley and thus, completing likely all she has to do there. Baszler already got the win over Becky Lynch and Bayley at Survivor Series, so it’s clear she has the trust of not only Triple H, but WWE bookers, and possibly Vince McMahon himself.
Winner: Shayna Baszler
Men’s Royal Rumble Match
But essentially there are a couple of different groups of potential winners here: 1) Brock Lesnar; 2) Rising Stars who could swerve the finish (Aleister Black, Rusev, Drew McIntyre); 3) Surprise entrant (Keith Lee, CM Punk, Edge); 4) Roman Reigns. By all accounts, the Roman Reigns redemption arc is in full effect, and after blowing off his feud with Corbin earlier in the night, it seems pretty academic that Roman Reigns is next on “The Fiend’s” list of heroes to take down.
Winner: Roman Reigns
The Royal Rumble is live at 6pm EST this Sunday January 26 on the WWE Network and PPV.